30 million donation makes historical news free to all

By on September 7, 2018

All Swedish daily newspapers from the years 1734–1906 will soon be available online, free for everyone to read and download. Thanks to a donation of SEK 30 million from the Arcadia research institution – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin – the National Library of Sweden (KB) and the Swedish National Archives can digitise all that is left of the copyright-free Swedish press heritage.

KB collects and preserves all daily newspapers that are published in Sweden, and this material has long been among the most used in the library. Since 2010, KB and the National Archives have been collaborating on digitisation and have built up a large-scale production line for the digitisation of newspapers. Arcadia’s donation means that KB and the National Archives can digitise and make available all copyright-free newspapers.

“Daily newspapers are important arenas for free debate and are vital for the whole country. They are extremely important for researchers, and also for journalists, culture professionals, genealogists and the interested public,” says National Librarian Gunilla Herdenberg.

At the moment, many of KB’s older digitised newspapers come from the big cities. It is therefore important that KB can now make more of the older local press available, believes Gunilla Herdenberg:

“From a democratic perspective, it’s necessary to present the complete publication of the country’s daily newspapers, from every single corner of Sweden.”

As well as the fact that anyone at all with an Internet connection can download these old daily newspapers, there is another benefit: With the aid of OCR (optical character recognition), the pages are also machine-readable. This means that large-scale data analyses can be performed of the content.

“This makes digitisation even more relevant. We already have a partnership with Språkbanken (the Swedish Language Bank) at the University of Gothenburg, which is using the text material to study the development of the Swedish language,” says Gunilla Herdenberg.

Digitisation takes place at the National Archives’ unit for digitisation, the Media Conversion Centre (MKC).

“It’s the National Archives’ experiences in the field of large-scale digitisation and KB’s expertise in quality and meta data that have made it possible to digitise this Swedish newspaper treasure,” says National Archivist Karin Åström Iko.

The project is expected to continue until 2022. The newspapers will be published on an ongoing basis in KB’s Swedish Daily Newspapers service as they are digitised.

“We’re absolutely delighted with this major donation, which will make these daily newspapers widely available,” say National Librarian Gunilla Herdenberg and National Archivist Karin Åström Iko.

Culture & Music | the National Library of Sweden (KB) and the Swedish National Archives

About KB’s Swedish Daily Newspapers service
This service currently collects more than 400 newspapers from all over the country, more than 20 million pages in total. Newspapers published until 1902 can be freely read and downloaded directly from the service. For reasons of copyright law, more recent newspapers must be read at KB or at another library that currently has the service. But anyone at all can perform general searches in all material, wherever they are.
About MKC
MKC is the National Archives’ digitisation unit, located in Fränsta in Västernorrland. The operation is the biggest of its kind in Europe. Since it started in 1991, MKC has digitised more than 257 million images of historical documents (cultural heritage material).
About Arcadia Fund
Arcadia is a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. It supports charities and scholarly institutions that preserve cultural heritage and the environment. Arcadia also supports projects that promote open access and all of its awards are granted on the condition that any materials produced are made available for free online. Since 2002, Arcadia has awarded more than $500 million to projects around the world.