Making use of library’s archive

The British Library has started putting some of its newspaper archives on the internet. Up to now they’ve released 65 million articles and over the next ten years expect to digitise a further 650 million articles mainly from local titles published before 1900.

These newspapers are currently stored at Colindale in London but are being moved to Boston Spa where they’ll be stored in a controlled environment where they can be better preserved.

This is a commercial venture run by the British Library in conjunction with Brightsolid, a Dundee company that also owns Friends Reunited. Now it so happens that Brightsolid is part of the D C Thomson group which owns the Beano and there were two things about the announcement which interested me.

Firstly, have any of the old Wetherby News articles been digitally archived and secondly have the Beanos been archived? Would the obvious connections have resulted in them having been given any sort of priority?

The best way of finding out was to register on the website britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk. Searching is actually quite easy and it was soon apparent that no copies of articles from the Wetherby News had yet been put online although the help screens did advise to keep referring back to the website as it was difficult to say when or if particular publications would be added. Searching for articles referring to Wetherby produced hundreds of references from other newspapers in Yorkshire so one can still obtain some very interesting historical information.

The search for references to the Beano surprised me. I hadn’t really held out any hope of finding anything as I hadn’t expected a comic to be included in a newspaper archive – and in any case the first Beano was published in 1938 and most of the digitally archived material was said to date back to before 1900; but I thought it was worth a try. As I’d expected, there weren’t any references to the comic, but I did find a lot of references to beanos. I’d always thought that the term beano came from the comic, but it is the other way around.

Now I didn’t study any of the articles in detail as only a brief glimpse is available unless one pays for a subscription – even British Library staff must pay to subscribe if they wish to research the information for their own use. But I did notice that the Western Times had quoted a Rector of Bideford as saying that there was a real danger of the Coronation of the King in 1937 being regarded as some sort of national beano.