Upgrade to Papers Past Website

The National Library of New Zealand has revamped its online collection of historical newspapers and will offer new features from early September.

The Papers Past website currently contains digital images of over one million pages from 41 New Zealand publications. Most regions are represented, with newspaper editions from the 19th and the early part of the 20th century. The earliest to have survived is the April 25th 1840 edition of the New Zealand Gazette, in which the “constituted authorities of Port Nicholson” fired written shots across the bows of Captain Hobson and arrested Captain Pearson in a disagreement over the extension of the boundaries of New South Wales and a claim of sovereignty over all of New Zealand. Them were the days of the wild colonial boys!

Outside the main centres of early colonial settlement, most regional newspapers are represented from the 1860s or 1870s, and are valuable research tools for genealogists and historians.

The upgraded website will offer two new publications and a selection of the existing titles will be searchable when it is launched mid to late next week (ca the 5th to 7th of September 2007). The addition of the Hawera Star will extend regional coverage within Taranaki, and the Nelson Examiner will bring the number of Nelson titles to three.

Following the upgrade, 300,000 pages of 17 titles will be searchable using optical character recognition technology. The library hopes to have all titles fully searchable within 2 to 3 years.

The user interface will change to accommodate the new features, so users familiar with the website will notice some changes.

The current Papers Past website requires a Java-enabled browser, a screen resolution of 1024×768 and works well with Mozilla Firefox. The size of the files (each newspaper page is downloaded as an image) means that the site is better-suited to users with a high-speed Internet connection. However, with a little patience, dial-up users can make good use of the site, but each page will take 3-6 minutes to download, depending on the size of the image and the speed of the connection.

The website offers a handy tool for determining whether your computer is capable of using the facilities. A summary of the publications available and their period of coverage is also provided.

It will be interesting to see how well the search facility will work. My experience with searching archival copies of London’s The Times, which started publication on Saturday January 1st 1785 as The Daily Universal Register, has been patchy at best. But then, my last attempt at that was over 18 months ago, and they may have made the technology idiot-proof by now.

2 Responses to “Upgrade to Papers Past Website”

  1. liz forster says:

    Just wanted to say what a great job you have done on this website. Have only just started reading it & already have found so much info. that I have been trying to find for ages.
    Thankyou again.
    Cheers Liz Forster.

  2. Ken says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Liz. It makes the effort worthwhile.

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