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.
Digitised, online and electronic newspapers
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.
Just because a newspaper is microfilmed doesn't mean it's preserved!
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:
- Guidelines for Preservation Microfilming in Australia and New Zealand - guidelines for preservation microfilming projects published by the National Library of Australia, 1998
- National Library of Australia's Policy on Preservation Copying of Collection Materials.
- Training in Preservation Microfilming - training material developed for the use in the Asia Pacific region through collaboration between the National Library of Australia and the State Library of South Australia under the auspices of IFLA PAC. Preservation Microfilming: Learning Guide pages 15-19 provide a list of Australian and international microform standards.
Preserving your newspaper
See: Guidelines for Storing Newspapers — advice on newspaper storage and handling from the State Library of Victoria.
- International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) - Newspaper Section — provides information relating to newspapers in libraries and archives including projects, publications, guidelines and conferences.
Last updated: 24 November 2011