Recently I tweeted this great video of the inside of the new British Newspaper Archive at Boston Spa, complete with a low-oxygen environment and robots.
Now the website, www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk, has reached 10,184,308 pages (as of 14:38pm on Thursday 19 February) and we can search a total of 366 titles online.
This is an incredible resource for anyone with an interest in the past, for whatever reason. You can of course purchase your own private subscription, or you can access it for free in any Norfolk Library or at the Norfolk Record Office using your library card and an email address. This even works over library wifi!
Here are a few of my top tips:
- get a library card, if you don’t have one already! Not only does this give you access to the BNA in libraries, but also to 19th Century Newspapers and the Times archive from home
- use an advanced search searching the entire newspaper, not just keywords
- avoid an exact search unless you are getting thousands of hits because the optical character recognition is not perfect. Software ‘reads’ and transcribes scanned pages. A hair or blob on the page can turn one character into another very easily
- for the same reason, don’t give up if you’re not successful on your first search – try a different word or browse to the right issue if you have a date and title
- don’t assume you’re searching every issue of a particular title. There are gaps in the sequence and you can find out what these are on the site
- the website is growing all the time, but doesn’t yet include every single newspaper ever produced. Local favourites the EDP and Evening News are not yet there – get to these at Norfolk Heritage Centre
- locally, try the Norfolk Chronicle, Norfolk News, Ipswich Journal and Bury and Norwich Post. If you don’t know the date, a smaller article that’s digitised can supply you with it, enabling you to find other stories in non-digitised newspapers.
- keep in mind that different newspapers cover different time periods on the site: some cut off in 1900 and others much later – this isn’t necessarily the date that publication stopped or the newspaper changed name due to a buy out or for another reason
- A great resource for finding all known local papers in Newsplan. There’s a great physical volume at Norfolk Heritage Centre, or search the database here for local holdings