The newspaper digitisation team at the British Library | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


Behind the scenes: the newspaper scanning team

Welcome to the first of a new series of blog posts from our newspaper scanning team. This month, our digitisation officer Andrew tells us about what his team does.


Andrew from The British Newspaper Archive

The digitisation team have been scanning newspapers at Boston Spa for almost two months. This series of blog posts will give you a ‘behind the scenes’ look at our work, how we capture images using state-of-the-art paper and microfilm scanners and how those images get onto The British Newspaper Archive.


Digitising newspapers from World War One

As 2014 is the centenary of the start of World War One, we are currently digitising a lot of newspapers from 1914-1918.

These provide a glimpse of what life was really like for those who lived – and died – during this defining period of our history. While news items tell us about the stark reality of war, some adverts can provide a degree of humour when viewed with 21st-century eyes.

We handle rare and often one-of-a-kind material and have received archive handling training from specialists at the British Library. A lot of the content we scan has been labelled ‘poor’ or ‘unfit for use’, so without digitisation it would no longer be available for public viewing.


The Newspaper Storage Building

The digitisation studio is in close proximity to the British Library’s new purpose-built Newspaper Storage Building at Boston Spa. The building is temperature and climate controlled to ‘safeguard the long-term future of the collection, which includes 750 million pages of local, regional and national newspapers’.

The British Library site at Boston Spa originally opened as the Thorp Arch Royal Ordnance Factory in 1941 and many of the buildings, including the one we work in, were built as part of the original munitions factory.


Thorp Arch in The British Newspaper Archive

Searching the newspapers for Thorp Arch reveals some fascinating insights about working life in a munitions factory. The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer actually reported on the closure of the Boston Spa site in 1945, as shown below.


Thorp Arch munitions factory closure reported in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer

The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – Friday 15 June 1945

Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

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1 comments On Behind the scenes: the newspaper scanning team

  • Dear Andrew, You do wonderful work bringing the past to us. Thank you so much. I am waiting patiently for you to copy The Frontier Guardian printed in Dordrecht, Eastern Cape, South Africa, and edited by James O’Brien. The issues between 1895 and just after the Anglo/Boer war would be the best place to start. Best Wishes from Qld, Australia. Margaret.

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