July 5, 2009: British Library Opens Newspaper Archives
Sounds dry, doesn't it? But when the archives in question are online, searchable, and drawn from 49 London-area newspapers from 1800 to 1900, things get a bit more interesting.
The searches are free, as are articles from the Graphic and the Penny Illustrated Paper. Accessing the entire archive of digitized publications will cost, however. For around $12, you get 100 articles over 24 hours; for just over $16 you get 200 articles over seven days. Public libraries in the UK may be able to get free access.
The academic applications are obvious and certainly cool on their own. What was the "must have" style during the War of 1812? What did early reviewers think of A Study In Scarlet? Researchers into family histories can gather not just names and locations, but day to day activities. Was your forefather a bookie? A "Charles Villiers Chapman" -- also operating under the name "Paul Coverdale" -- seems to have been. (I wonder how far back into my family tree I'd need to go to find him?) How were the shocking and lurid events that occurred in Whitechapel reported?
Gamers, of course, have their own use: Victorian plots. Classic Call of Cthulhu scenarios can always use more atmosphere, and real newspaper clippings are just what the doctor ordered. Use it for "notes from back East" in Old West games. Throw bits from the society pages into your Castle Falkenstein campaign.
-- Paul Chapman
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