The Australian Newspaper Plan aims to preserve Australian newspapers for permanent access.

original hard copy newspapers storage of newspapers on microfilm digitised storage of newspapers

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.

Printed newspapers

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.

Digitised and digital newspapers

Australian Newspaper Plan libraries are currently embracing the challenge of collecting digital newspapers and managing them for permanent access. The National Library of Australia currently archives some online newspapers within its PANDORA web archive.

While microfilm has been the traditional medium for preserving printed 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.

Why microfilm?

In order to protect newspapers for as long as possible, but still provide access to the information they contain, libraries and archives have microfilmed many 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 and 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.

Preserving your newspaper

See: Guidelines for Storing Newspapers — advice on newspaper storage and handling from the State Library of Victoria.

Further Resources:

Last updated: January 2014

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