National Library of Australia
The Australian Newspaper Plan aims to preserve Australian newspapers for permanent access.
Many newspapers from the mid-1850s are printed on chemically unstable ground wood pulp paper, which deteriorates rapidly with age and use. For this reason, in addition to preserving the printed newspaper for as long as feasible, Australian libraries are also reformatting newspapers through microfilming and digitisation.
The environmental conditions at which print and microfilmed newspapers are held needs to be carefully monitored to ensure that these newspapers last.
Preserving Australian newspapers: a. Original hard copy newspapers traditionally bound into monthly editions. b. Preservation microfilming: a medium for long-term preservation of newspaper content. c. Digital storage of newspapers. Photo courtesy of State Library of Queensland.
While microfilm has been the traditional medium for preserving newspapers, Australian libraries are also interested in providing ongoing access to digitised versions of their historical newspapers. Digitised newspapers may be made easily accessible and text can be made searchable. The National Library is providing free online access to fully text-searchable Australian newspapers through Digitised newspapers and more on Trove.
The Australian Newspaper Plan continues to explore emerging issues in the provision of permanent access to newspapers such as the collection of electronic versions and the roles of digitisation and microfilming as reformatting strategies.
The National Library of Australia currently archives some online newspapers within its PANDORA web archive.
In order to protect newspapers for as long as possible, but still provide access to the information they contain, libraries and archives are microfilming newspapers. Due to its relatively low cost and high-speed production, as well as ease of storage, microfilm has proved to be a popular preservation option. This remains true in the digital era, in which microfilm is a cost-effective basis from which to digitise newspapers.
If microfilm is to be a 'preservation copy' of a newspaper then it must be produced and housed according to archival standards. Early microfilm was often made from cellulose acetate which is unstable under all but the most stringent storage conditions. When cellulose acetate deteriorates it gives off acetic acid which smells like vinegar. This process is known as 'vinegar syndrome'. Microfilm must be replaced or copied urgently if vinegar syndrome is identified. Cellulose acetate materials are no longer used to produce microfilm. Polyester film became popular for making microfilm from the mid-1970s and is very stable.
Microform preservation masters (first generation film) are archived in cold storage separately from duplicating masters (second generation film) and working copies (third generation film) whenever possible.
Information on preservation microfilming may be found at:
See: Guidelines for Storing Newspapers — advice on newspaper storage and handling from the State Library of Victoria.
Last updated: 24 November 2011