Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Preserving old newspapers and documents

There's an interesting feature entitled Not fade away... how robots are preserving our old newspapers in today's Guardian newspaper, taking a look at the new British Library newspaper library facility at Boston Spa, Yorkshire. It can be read online at http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/05/british-library-digitising-newspapers-boston-spa.

The article goes beyond the new facility however, to look at the conservation of materials at Boston Spa but also in other repositories, for example The Great Parchment Book of the Honourable The Irish Society, held at London Metropolitan Archives, which was recently restored for online display in a major conservation and digitisation project. Well worth a read!


The latest British GENES podcast is available at http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/p/podcasts.html. For details on my latest book Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, and my other genealogy guide books, please visit http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.html.


  1. As we migrate to a computer age it is also probably important that genealogists consider preservation of both electronic data and computer print outs for future generations.

    The National Library of Scotland is working on the electronic data issue. It is not enough simply to preserve the files. They are useless without programs to read them. And today's programs are unlikely to work on platforms available in the distant future. (I already have 20 year old Powerpoint files I cannot read and IBM DisplayWrite word processing files on 5 inch disks that I cannot use)

    We therefore need documentation of the meaning of, and layout and indexing of the data within our preserved files. And sustainable storage of them which is not dependent on continuing access to (e.g.) 5 inch disk readers.

    On computer print outs we should be aware that they are dramatically less durable than pen and ink on paper. Laser and inkjet printers merely put ink onto the surface of paper. Unlike old pen and ink, it does not materially penetrate the paper. It fades away rapidly. And if stored in plastic folders the ink can be lifted off the paper by the plastic.

    Time we all turned our minds to some of these issues. And these are unlikely to be the sum of them. Merely some of them.