Saturday, August 26, 2017

"Let the newspapers be kept!"
(Some thoughts from 1932)

While working on yesterday's post about George Manning-Sanders, I came across this interesting little article about the preservation of history and ephemera that fits in perfectly with the theme of this blog.

Here's the article, from Page 8 of the August 24, 1932, issue of The Manchester Guardian:
Keeping the Newspapers
At the opening of the new British Museum repository for newspapers yesterday Professor Gilbert Murray remarked that if only a week's supply for the fifth century B.C. was extant we should have a flood of light thrown upon those days; which is no doubt a true observation.

If an Athenian newspaper for the week ending April 4, 431 B.C., was in our hands we should have a fine example in miniature of the difficulties attending the peaceful settlement of international disputes, and a number of university graduates would be deprived of their present diversion of digging and guessing on Greek soil.

The new building at Hendon is the modern way of providing students in the next centuries with more certain, if less delightful, ways of obtaining the knowledge they seek.

But when we reflect that the newspaper as we know it has a history of only about 150 years, that in the future it may well be yet larger, and that the new storehouse in London with its fourteen miles of shelves will be sufficient for only fifty years, the housing prospect becomes terrifying.

The normal end of to-day's news is, alas! the grate of tomorrow, and though historians are entitled to the raw materials of their trade, the usual object of materials is to make from them finished goods. The writing of history has the drawback that the bulk of raw materials is in no way reduced by the publication of the book, and though it might be plausibly argued that newspapers in files are like gold in the Bank of England (and certainly capable of less harm), the thought of these warehouses springing up everywhere is somewhat appalling.

Besides, there are many incidents in human history better forgotten which someone will be sure to dig up. But we must be stern with ourselves. We must not run the risk of turning in our multitudinous graves because of the reproaches of posterity. Let the newspapers be kept!
According to the History of British Library Newspapers, Hendon (Colindale) was first home to a British Museum Newspaper Repository, which opened in 1905. The second Colindale facility, which opened in 1932 and is discussed in this article, was the British Museum Newspaper Library.

On October 20, 1940, a German air strike destroyed the 1905 building (the Repository), resulting in the loss of 6,000 volumes of newspapers — mostly late 19th century English provincial and Irish newspapers — and damage to an additional 15,000 volumes.

The newspaper archives were rebuilt, as much as possible, in the decades after World War II.

The British Library Newspaper Library at Colindale closed on November 8, 2013. According to a British Library press release, the huge collection was moved "to a purpose-built Newspaper Storage Building at the Library’s site at Boston Spa in West Yorkshire." The press release further stated:
"The purpose of the moves is to extend the life of the collection, which encompasses some 750 million pages of newspapers and periodicals, spanning more than three centuries, and includes local, regional and national newspapers from across the UK and Ireland and around the world.

"The existing location at Colindale is far from ideal for storing fragile newsprint, with few environmental controls and outdated means of access to the collection. The new building at Boston Spa will offer full temperature and humidity control, maximising the life-span of newspapers, and will have low-oxygen conditions to eliminate the risk of fire."
And so the preservation continues. They'll thank us, perhaps, in 2317.

1 comment:

  1. The newspaper article in The Guardian (Manchester, UK) which you reference in your post includes a small advert from Baxendale & Co., Ltd.

    Much like the British Museum Newspaper Repository, the Baxendale factory was also destroyed in the Blitz in 1940. Source:

    Baxendale survived the Blitz, and then some:

    Stiff upper lip!

    -- M.F.