‘Fighting a losing battle’: Library launches appeal to save Scotland’s newspapers

CENTURIES of Scottish social history could be lost if funding is not found for preservation work, the National Library of Scotland has said.

The library has been collecting newspapers since 1925 but its collections date as far back as 1641 which come from the length and breadth of Scotland.

The titles range from the Western Isles to the Borders and detail everyday moments and major events in the country’s history including the price of a pint and football scores.

Award-winning crime writer Val McDermid regularly uses the library’s collections for research.

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She said: “The seventh Karen Pirie novel starts with an eagle-eyed librarian spotting something very odd in an archive bequeathed by a recently deceased author. It leads to a major cold case investigation…

“But it’s not just writers of fiction for whom the newspaper archive is a vital resource.

“Historians, cultural commentators, investigative journalists – they all rely on this valuable resource to paint a picture of our past as it was experienced by the people who lived it. Without it we are poorer as a nation.”

Without action, it is estimated that 65% of the library’s newspapers could be lost. That is why the library is launching an appeal to save our stories.

As newspapers are not designed to be kept, they are printed on cheap and fragile paper which degrades quickly.

Much of the collection has therefore deteriorated over time and the demand for their use often results in unintentional wear and tear.

The National: The library holds the first edition of The Scotsman in its collectionThe library holds the first edition of The Scotsman in its collection (Image: Alison Gibson/National Library of Scotland)

Conservator Claire Hutchison, who is working with the most at-risk papers, said: “Our history is in our newspapers and they are the most requested items in our collections.

“But our newspaper collections are incredibly fragile and very brittle. We’re fighting a losing battle to carry out preservation work.

“There are limits to what we can achieve, but I can repair tears and treat paper so it can be digitised.”

The library’s collection comprises 961 titles – from the Aberdeen Press and Journal and Dundee Courier to the Highland News and Orkney Times.

Hutchison added: “We’re also working with local libraries to carry out conservation work on their collections.

“These papers have local histories that aren’t recorded anywhere else. This is such important work.”

To support the appeal, click HERE

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