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. In 2015 we digitised, to Trove, the newspaper the Bendigo Independent, from 1902-1918.

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, including the Bendigo Independent (1891- 1918). For more detailed information about the Library’s digitisation process and to enquire about getting your local paper digitised, see the Newspaper digitisation tab in our research guide.

This article has 45 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.

  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.


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


      • 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)

  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!

  21. Very interesting story. I enjoyed reading about the digitising process you use. I have used Trove quite a lot for research, while tracing my family tree. I have just recently starting editing the stories that I am using and will continue to do so.

    Great job and keep up the good work.

  22. Pingback: Read all about it: our newspapers tell your story – State Library Victoria

  23. Very interesting article. I find Trove a wonderful research and extremely happy that it is a free research service. I use it a lot to add the day to day life of people even if I can’t find a relation in the timeframe there are amazing general interest stories. I know it is a slow and costly exercise but wanted to enquire can you tell me if there are any plans in the near future for the papers of Port Fairy previously called Belfast to be digitalised. I know that Warrnambool, Portland and Hamilton have a lot already online but Port Fairy I think would have a rich historic value, with whaling and early settlement, to add to the wonderful resources of Trove. Plus of course my own family interest in the town. Keep up the good work

    • Dear Wendy,
      Thanks for reading the Such Was Life blog.
      After the recent defunding of Trove, the amount of papers going online has been greatly reduced. There are many titles that we would like to digitise- and the early Port Fairy and Belfast papers are included in these. Many local history societies apply for grants to have their newspapers digitized to Trove through the Public Record Office of Victoria, so we’d be happy to partner with successful applicants.


  24. Hello Paul
    I have just read your blog.
    I came across it when looking at the SLV family history research guides. Your description and the accompanying images are terrific. I really enjoyed learning about the digitisation process. It must be very satisfying work. Many thanks for what you do.
    I have just completed the online ‘Branching Out’ introduction to family history course through the SLV.
    The digitised newspapers through Trove provided so much fascinating information for me about my ancestors and what they were doing. Without access to the newspaper articles I wouldn’t have been able to gain the picture I have of them and the times in which they lived. It has been terrific to be able to view these newspapers from home.

    • Yes Mandy- newspapers contain so much information- and have such broad appeal; digitising them has changed the way we research.
      Thanks for reading,

  25. Very interesting Paul. I am most grateful to all. I notice, (in answer to a question above) that the Toowoomba papers were being done. Any comments on the Merriwa and Cassilis Standard/News. There is a facebook page for Merriwa Cassilis History with over 700 members.

  26. It’s great to learn the details of this process. The Trove newspaper digitisation programme has been such a boon and makes me feel so connected to my history. Long may it continue!

  27. It’s at long, long odds, but we mustn’t rule out the possibilities that :

    (1) there could be holding or two in a UK, USA, Canadian library or archive…

    (2) there could be a private holdings somewhere in the world…

    [Signed : Ever Hopeful]

  28. So that’s how it’s done! So interesting. Every time I use Trove and find valuable family history or something of interest, I send a little prayer of thanks to all who have been/are involved in making the readers’ lives so enjoyable.
    Thank you!

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