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Free Online Historical Newspapers

   January 10th, 2008

Access NewspaperARCHIVE logoA few months ago I got an email about a website called Access NewspaperARCHIVE, saying that libraries could signup for free access to historical newspapers, dating back to the 1700s.

Sweet. I'm always looking for good primary source resources, especially online ones (and especially-especially free ones), so I thought I'd check this out. The signup process was a bit odd, having to download and then fax in their signup form [pdf, 418 kb]. I didn't hear anything back from them for months, so one day I just tried their url again (from within the library) and it IP-authenticated me.

So, I took that as us being signed up, and I started playing. The database is neat, as all the newspapers in there are saved as PDF files (see the 7/29/1895 Sandusky Register). And some are older than I could find in our other available resources, so those are two great things in its favor. However, I did see some drawbacks:

  • In-Library use only. And right on the authenticated homepage (the one patrons would see by logging in at the library) is a link to "Sign up for a home account." Which isn't expensive, but it's not free. It's just a little bit underhanded to give libraries a free account and then use that as a vehicle to sell to our patrons. So, I bypass this page and go right to the Browse page
  • No keyword searching. You can only browse by location, date, or newspaper title. Which will be fine for the "what happened on my birthday" questions, or if you were just looking up anything old in your area, but eliminates searching for a topic. And, the browse tool and the results listing are kind of clunky
  • No Massachusetts Newspapers. Which is a pain, since I mainly serve Massachusetts patrons. So, I guess no local historical information for me
  • Front pages only? For the papers I viewed, it wasn't the entire paper but just the front page. That's a pain
  • Not high-quality scans. The newspapers are legible, both on screen and printed, but they are just a little bit too bitmapped. And they are images, rather than text-based, which means no copy/pasting

So, my overall verdict is this: it's an amazing resource for primary source newspapers, and it's free, so it's better than nothing. There are some drawbacks, but I am rarely completely satisfied anyway.

Something else I did like was they had a "Questions? Ask a Librarian" link. This is an email link to whatever email address you supplied on the signup form. Which is good, since my patrons using this will be able to write to me, instead of this company.

Anyway, this is available, so I'm going to give it a try. If anyone has experience with this company or database, please comment below and let us know what you think. Thanks.

access, database, databases, historic, historical, libraries, library, newspaper, newspaperarchive, newspapers, primary, public, source, sources

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4 Responses to “Free Online Historical Newspapers”

  1. david Says:

    Newspaperarchives.com is terrific…I have used it for years, and uncovered some real gems.

    Another great resource for historical newspaper archives is this site at XooxleAnswers:

    Free Newspaper Archives

    There are a ton of great links here, all of them to online newspaper and magazine archives that go back at least 50 years. Some of them go back to the 17th century!

    Best of all, everything listed here is free. There is no charge to access any of the archives listed at this site.

    Most of the material is from the US, and is in English, but there are also many international listings, and non-English listings (French, German, Polish, Hebrew, even Maori!), from both the US and elsewhere.

    Definitely worth checking out!

  2. Stella L. Jones Says:

    I would like an online historical newspaper from the 1700’s to 1950 that is offered for free.

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    The company that offered the free access to historical newspapers is http://access.newspaperarchive.com. However, sadly, they emailed all their “free” customers saying that we’d have to start paying for access effective July 1st, 2008. It is not something my library can afford right now, so we’re going to lose access to these newspapers at the end of the month. Which is too bad, because it is a very good resource.

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