A bound volume of the Bendigo Independent 

The Library runs a very active digitising program, resulting in thousands of our collection items becoming accessible online. These include pictures, books, journals, manuscripts, pamphlets and newspapers. Currently we are digitising the newspaper the Bendigo Independent, from 1902-1918. When the project is complete, you will be able to read and search the paper online, via Trove.

Usually, the papers on Trove have been digitised from the microfilms of the paper, however we don’t hold the microfilms for this title so we are scanning from the actual hard copy papers.

The first step in the process is to bring in the 32 volumes from our warehouse in Ballarat. The Bendigo Independent was a daily newspaper (6 days a week) and was bound every six months, making it a large and heavy volume. The volumes are then assessed by Preservation staff, where tears or creases are treated. This is an arduous process requiring each page to be carefully turned and examined.


Some newspapers chopped and changed between edition size, causing frayed and brittle edges, which can be difficult to treat.

 A crease in a page is common and requires careful unfolding.

 
Each page needs to be turned slowly as some pages may already be torn.


Creases are relaxed through local humidification with deionised water and a fine brush, then flattened using a small heated iron over silicone release paper. Any tears are repaired using a heat-set repair tissue.

Sometimes the pages in the volumes are so tightly bound that the volume needs to be disbound. Fortunately, the Bendigo Independent volumes open flatly enough to ensure all the text can be scanned. Once all the volumes are treated, they are taken to the digitising room; which is in one of the Library’s many basements.


After treatment, the volumes are stacked ready for scanning then each volume is laid open on a table beneath the scanner, which contain two digital cameras.

With one click of the mouse an image of each page is captured and then displayed on a computer screen. The page is then carefully turned and captured again. We are capturing approximately 34,000 pages from the Bendigo Independent and the scanning will take up to two months.

When all of the pages are scanned, these files will be sent to the Trove folk where Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software is run over the pages, which will enable the paper to be keyword searchable.

The entire process of digitising an archival paper can take up to a year. When selecting titles to be digitised, we take into account many factors, such as the historical significance of the paper, the paper’s coverage, i.e. what area it represents; the age and condition of the paper and the popularity of the paper.

At the time of writing, there are over 330 Victorian titles on Trove, and this number will steadily increase over the years. We are hopeful the Bendigo Independent will be online by the end of the year.

This article has 32 comments

  1. Excellent post and a real indication of the complex work involved.

  2. Good work.

  3. Jeanette Brentnall

    Our thanks to the people who are carrying out this task, which must rate as one of the world’s most boring jobs, but one for which many generations of researchers will be very grateful.

  4. Thanks so much for this informative post and for the invaluable work Trove is doing. It is appreciated by so many people.

  5. Thank you for showing what happens during the digitising project. I use Trove frequently for family research and it may be weird, but I love to fix the text errors.

  6. You have done a wonderful job of demonstrating just how much work goes into digitisation, thanks!

  7. A thousand blessings on those who invented newspaper digitising and ten thousand more on those who do the hard yakka.

    May I ask when the Melbourne Daily Telegraph will be available? It is as important as the Age or the Argus.

    • Hi Ian
      Thanks for your question. The Melbourne Daily Telegraph will be one of the titles we nominate for digtisation over the next three years.
      When it will actually be done will depend on the how it fits in with priorities of the Trove folk – as they are digitising papers from all round Australia.
      Paul

  8. Great effort.
    I really appreciate all your work. These old papers can give a fantastic insight into life in the past. Great for family history!
    Keep it up

  9. Absolutely fascinating. Terrific to see the ongoing support to publish more on Trove.

  10. Adding my thanks for such diligent work. I often wondered how it was done as I imagined it would have to be a lot of manual work. Great to see this paper being done. There will no doubt be some great gold mining history etc to be found

  11. Interesting to see the process of digitising, thankyou. Our historical society has recently decided to hold on to our copies of the local Leader newspapers from the 1990s and 2000s, after consultation with various experts. We understand that most local newspapers will not be digitised for many many years. And we know the SLV keeps a hard copy but we feel its important for us also to have an easily accessible hard copy.

  12. Thanks to all staff involved in these projects. I have been lucky enough to see where you work and as others before have said really appreciate getting access to the papers for my family history research. This is what brings my family to life. Thank you so much.

  13. Only just found the time to read this Paul. Thank you, it is quite fascinating, particularly the methods of restoration where needed. Very time consuming and not exciting work, but the end result is so important. AND SO MUCH EASIER THAN READING MICROFICHE!

  14. The Bairnsdale Advertiser has been digitised (courtesy of the East Gippsland Family History Group) from 1882 through to 1972. However, the first issue -14th Feb 1882 – is number 471. It seems the paper may have changed hands around that time. Does SLV have any idea where the previous 470 issues may be held – or if, in fact, they have survived?

    • Hi Peter,

      We hold two September 1881 issues in hard copy but then our holdings jump to 1882.

      I don’t know of anywhere that holds the earlier issues. Legal deposit began in 1882, so prior to that publishers were not bound to send issues to the Library, so it seems we didn’t receive them. The two most likely organisations to hold them would be the State Library and the Historical Society so, unless they are privately held, it’s unlikely they have survived, unfortunately.

      Paul

      • Thanks Paul – will pass your info on to the EGFHG.

        Peter

      • Hi again Paul
        In re your reply to Rhyl DeardenDecember 23, 2015 at 16:04.
        In scanning through some 1901 editions of the Bairnsdale Advertiser I notice that some pages have not been fully digitised – the bottom 50-75mm have been cut off. If these pages are reported is it possible for them to be reprocessed?

        • Hi Peter
          If you can give me some dates of the cut-off pages, I can compare them to the microfilm of the pages here to see if that’s how they were originally filmed (the microfilms were scanned up onto Trove)
          Paul

  15. Will this newspaper need the editing that other scanned papers have? I have been correcting text for a few years but not recently. Thanks for a great service, and keep up the good work. It was fascinating to know the exact details of the process.

    I am hoping the Toowoomba Chronicle is eventually done, too. I believe some was digitised recently from Australian Government Library resources as the originals are very tightly bound and difficult to access.

  16. An excellent article, thank you so much for making it. You may like to hear a little local story about how using Trove and digitised newspapers a few months ago gave me some great information. I live in an older suburb, and while browsing our street name, I found articles which told me that the plane trees in our street were planted exactly one hundred years ago, in 1915. My husband got a bit carried away and wrote a street letter, telling all our neighbours that the trees were 100 years old, and suggesting that we tie green ribbons around them to celebrate. 38 ribbons decorated the 57 trees in our street – what a great community celebration! Then our local Leader paper came and took some photos too! Thanks Trove, and all library staff who work in digitising our history!

  17. Your work is very much appreciated by a lot of people. Thank you.

  18. What an interesting article about this vital but painstaking process. Your efforts are really appreciated, thank you so much!

  19. Champion stuff. The Trove newspapers are my favourite site for genealogical research. More power to your digitising arm!

  20. The important restoration and preservation processes are necessarily conducted “behind the scenes” . It is interesting to me to see and hear how these carefully detailed processes , which are often taken for granted, occur. Good work!

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