17 May 2010
This month a number of Australian libraries will complete microfilming projects to save some of Australia’s ‘at risk’ newspapers. That’s caused me to reflect on the vast amount of Australian newspaper heritage that is now available for us all to explore. Over the years, the National Library has provided around $2 million to the state and territory libraries to rescue newspapers which may be fragile, in heavy demand, or otherwise ‘at risk’. (Lately, that’s been adding about 500 reels of microfilm, or approximately 350,000 newspaper pages, per year to the national collection). This has been through the Library’s cooperative newspaper microfilming program in which newspapers are copied onto stable microfilm which can then be preserved, potentially for hundreds of years, in cold storage. When this program ceases in June 2010, it will leave a significant legacy of preserved Australian history.
Newspaper microfilm in the National Library's cold store
Newspapers for which funding has been provided have ranged from major metropolitan papers such South Australia’s Advertiser to a wide variety of newspapers documenting the life of regional Australia, multicultural Australia and the cultural and sporting pursuits of Australians through the decades. A significant portion of the microfilm which has been produced through this program has been digitised or is earmarked for digitisation. These newspapers will then be made widely accessible through the National Library’s newspapers service. As well as capturing the interest of many who are interested in finding out about our past, this program has ensured that the stories of past generations of Australians will be available to the next generations.