Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Google to digitize newspaper archives

If you'll permit me to put on my historian's hat for a moment, the announcement that Google is planning a massive project to digitize the back issues of newspapers, scanning their old microfilms and making them searchable online, is very exciting.

Having spent countless hours of my own time (and now that of my research assistants) seated in front of creaky microfilm readers scanning through uncatalogued newspaper microfilm reels in the hopes of turning up material that will be relevant to my research, I'm almost giddy with excitement. Most Canadian newspapers only have digital holdings going back to the mid-1980s, and the Canadian News Index only goes back to the late 1970s. If you want to search for articles from the mid-1970s or earlier in most Canadian newspapers (the exceptions being the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, both of which charge for the privilege), it's like hunting for a needle in a haystack - no indexes, and no digital material.

If enough newspapers partner with Google on this initiative, it could revolutionize historical research - or at least make it a lot faster!

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At 10:03 am, Blogger Jerry Prager said...

Actually, if you use your library card it doesn't cost anything to scan back issues of the Globe starting in 1844, or the Star beginning in 1896. But otherwise I agree with you, it's good news for historians

At 10:27 am, Blogger Matt said...

Well, it doesn't cost me anything, but it does cost the university! Many of my readers don't have access to all the resources of a university library, and their digital collection subscriptions are often restricted to students and faculty.

It's the possibility that the other papers might go online that has be really excited. You can get in real trouble as a historian for using just the Star and the Globe to represent all of Canada!

At 10:58 am, Blogger Jerry Prager said...

I never went to university. I use the public Library, although I have used the university, and it will cost somebody something, Google has a massive real world footprint, they sell ads, but you're still right,the online Globes and Stars made it possible for me to write Legends of the Morgeti, because they allowed me to establish dates of event coverage which could then use to search microfilm of Mercuries and other regional papers, but all papers on line, it makes me giddy from the possibilities.

At 4:13 pm, Blogger FRANCESCA said...

Yes, wow, this is very exciting news. (hmmm, should we run out and buy more GOOGLE shares?:)

Great Blog!


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