Old News Gets New Life as Journals Go Digital; New Archive Set to Put Reports from History Just a Click Away

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 16, 2009 | Go to article overview

Old News Gets New Life as Journals Go Digital; New Archive Set to Put Reports from History Just a Click Away


Byline: Robin Turner

FIRSTHAND accounts of some of Wales' most dramatic moments will be available at the click of a button as part of a pounds 2m project to digitise more than 300 historic magazines and newspapers.

The National Library of Wales initiative will bring old newspapers and magazines which predate the digital age to the web, and is being described as a significant development for researchers, local historians, genealogists, teachers and film and television researchers.

The money has been allocated from the Assembly Government's Strategic Capital Investment Fund.

The publications which will be digitised over the next three years date as far back as the 18th century and cover up to 300 titles.

They include children's magazines such as Cymru'r Plant, popular newspapers such as the Star of Gwent, Tarian y Gweithiwr, Herald y Rhos and the Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian and a number of other magazines and journals.

Among the stirring newspaper accounts contained in the National Library of Wales initiative will be coverage of the Newport Rising.

It was the last large-scale armed rebellion against authority in mainland Britain, when on November 4, 1839, between 1,000 and 5,000 Chartist sympathisers, many wielding homemade arms, led by John Frost, marched on Newport.

Their aim was to free fellow Chartists who were reported to have been taken prisoner in the town's Westgate Hotel.

Around 20 chartists died in a fierce battle and their leaders John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered though they were later "transported for life" instead.

Among the attacking Chartists was a young Allan Pinkerton who, after emigrating to America, would set up the US's first detective agency which was involved in tracking outlaws Butch

Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The site containing the digitised journals - Welsh Newspapers and Magazines Online - will form a teaching and research library for every university, school, college and home across Wales.

It will not go online until 2012 because two million pages have to be digitised first.

Announcing the development, Assembly Minister for Heritage Alun Ffred Jones said: "Newspapers and magazines are a treasure trove of firsthand accounts of historic events and often forgotten information about the way we have lived, the food we ate, the books we read and how we felt about politics, religion and family life. …

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