Saturday, October 27, 2007

255 years of a newspaper online

This week the oldest online newspaper archive in the Netherlands was launched with a database of articles dating back to 29 July 1752 (see photograph). The Leeuwarder Courant is now a daily which is distributed in the North of the Netherlands, an area where besides the Dutch language also the Frisian language is spoken and written. During its history the newspaper has been published in three languages: Frisian, Dutch and French (during the French occupation). The Leeuwarder Courant has now the oldest newspaper archive in the Netherlands; up to last week it was the digital archive of the weekly De Groene which ranges from 1877 till 1940.

It has been a two year project. The database contains 3 billion words, 11 million articles and 800.000 scanned pages. The total project has cost 450.000 euro. The scanning of a page is roughly 50 cents per page.

For access to the archive registration of name and e-mail address are needed. The database can be searched in various ways. Just a simple search will generate an article, if the searched term is present in an article. But when one uses more than one word, there is a risk that one gets only articles with one of the words. In the advanced mode search arguments can be refined. The edition can also be searched by date. The articles are presented as the original articles, including the highlighted search terms. But as the context, especially the position in the edition, says something about the importance of articles. A special show button presents the position of the article on the page.

The digital archive of the Leeuwarder Courant has been organised by the Foundation Digital Archive Leeuwarder Courant, a cooperation of the Leeuwarder Courant and Tresoar. The reason for starting the archive lies in the preservation of the physical printed newspapers. But the printed newspaper was also hard to search.

The foundation went after the funds. Yet the foundation wants to keep access to and searching in the archive free as everyone in Friesland should have access to the rich heritage. In the long run the foundation might start to charge the user for downloading complete pages, a facility which is already present in the system.

The foundation expects that the archive is interesting for libraries, the Frisian broadcast Omrop Frysl├ón, municipalities, schools, scientific institutes, genealogists, historian, linguists, journalists and the citizen interested in history. The foundation has forgotten the bloggers. So I asked for a password and started to browse through the database. As I am not living in the area not have any family ties in that part of the Netherlands, I could only launch an ego search. Result: no hits. But I could at least check the newspaper of my birthday. I have never seen a frontpage of Dutch newspapers, published on my birthday. Now I saw a page coming up telling me that due to the scarcity of paper in wartime, the newspaper would not be printed daily. Besides two long articles about the Second World War, the full New Year’s speech of Hitler was reproduced. It was clear that the newspaper was under German censorship.

But than I thought about my business partner Hans Sleurink. He is living in the area and has a colourful past as documentary script writer, as information provider, political observer and journalist. And indeed his name was retrieved with success. I was offered several articles on local issues and on multimedia. I also found a (copyrighted) picture of young Hans in one of the articles.

Blog Posting Number: 907

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