THE BRITISH LIBRARY

The Newsroom blog

26 November 2019

The open newspaper catalogue

Over the past few years, in galleries, libraries, archives and museums there has been a focus on moving beyond search to working with collections though their data. With this in mind, we’d like to share the release of a metadata list of all British, Irish, British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies newspapers held by the British Library. This is now available on the British Library’s open access Research Repository as a public domain dataset. This metadata includes information on the date range, the place of publication, variant (and successive) titles and editions, as well as whether or not a title has been digitised. 

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The catalogue of our newspaper collection does many wonderful things, but there are some questions which are better answered through simplified structured data - data in rows and columns. You might find it useful to put together a subset of newspapers to which you’d like to take a closer look, say between a set of dates and/or a particular place of publication, or just find out what’s been digitised. We think it’s a clear, simple dataset which works well for creating fun charts, maps and even animations, and we’ve been putting some documents on Github to share some of the things we’ve been creating.

Collections data is messy – with good reason - but we’ve favoured simplicity, aiming for a list which can be filtered or visualised with a limited set of fields, rather than trying to capture all the complexities of the catalogue. We’ve included a link to the catalogue entry for each title, and if you’re using the metadata for searching rather than broader analysis, we highly recommend checking the catalogue for more specific information on our holdings for a given title. There’s also a link to the digitised version of the newspaper, if it exists, on the British Newspaper Archive, so if you’re on-site or have a subscription you can click straight through to that and have a closer look.

This is very much a first version: there are many ways in which it could be improved and enriched, and we will publish periodic updates (eventually we will move towards a model of relational or linked data). We hope you find it useful, and do get in touch if you’ve used it to make something interesting and would like to show it off.

British and Irish Newspapers: A title-level list of British, Irish, British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies newspapers held by the British Library.

A listing of our entire newspaper collection (i.e. world newspapers) is in preparation and will be published on the Research Repository at a later date. Meanwhile, look out for other open datasets from our news collections in the near future.

Yann Ryan

Curator, Newspaper Data