British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

The British Library Newsroom

In April 2014 the British Library opened its reading room for news. Its many features include a Broadcast News service with a growing library of recordings from 22 television and radio news channels. Dr Luke McKernan looks beyond the headlines.

Luke-McKernanAbout the author: Luke McKernan is Lead Curator, News and Moving Image at the British Library. He is the author of: Charles Urban: Pioneering the Non-Fiction Film in Britain and America, 1897-1925 (University of Exeter Press, 2013); Shakespeare on Film, Television and Radio: The Researcher’s Guide (BUFVC, 2009), co-editor with Eve-Marie Oesterlen and Olwen Terris; Moving Image Knowledge and Access: The BUFVC Handbook (BUFVC, 2007), co-editor with Cathy Grant; Yesterday’s News: The British Cinema Newsreel Reader (BUFVC, 2002), editor; A Yank in Britain: The Lost Memoirs of Charles Urban, Film Pioneer (The Projection Box, 1999), editor; Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema: A Worldwide Survey (BFI, 1996), co-editor with Stephen Herbert; Walking Shadows: Shakespeare in the National Film and Television Archive (BFI, 1994), co-editor with Olwen Terris.

On 28 April 2014 the British Library officially launched the Newsroom, its reading room for news at its St Pancras site in London. The Newsroom is the culmination of a seven-year programme to preserve the nation’s newspaper collection long term. It also point to the Library’s future plans for news, as it brings together not only a vast newspaper archive but also its growing collections of television, radio and web news.

In 2001 a survey of the British Library’s newspaper collections, then held at Colindale in North London, revealed that the collection was in a highly vulnerable state. 34% of the collection was assessed as being unstable, with 19.4% in poor condition and 14.6% in an unusable state. There were no proper temperature or humidity controls, sunlight streamed through the windows and the conditions were seasonal. Newspapers, produced for the most part on cheap newsprint never designed to last more than a day, let alone centuries, were crumbling before our eyes.

Launch of the Newsroom at The British Library.28.4.14

Launch of the Newsroom at The British Library.28 April 2014 (Image © The British Library)

It was not a situation that could be allowed to continue and it led to a major planning exercise followed by a funding application to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, out of which came the £33M Newspaper Programme. Wind forward to 2014, and the Programme is nearly complete. The Newspaper Storage Building (NSB) at Boston Spa has been built and is designed to hold all sixty million issues of newspapers that the Library has going back to the early seventeenth century, with room for growth as we continue to take in over 300 metres of newspapers per year. The Colindale library building closed down in November 2013 and the newspapers are now in the process of being transported up to Yorkshire in large lorries, three per day every day until Autumn 2014, when they will be ready for access once more.

« previous     1 2 3    next »