News | December 9, 2022

Call To Help Save Historic Newspaper Collection

National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland is appealing for urgent help to save its vast historic Scottish newspaper collection from degradation.

Offering unique stories about everyday life and major events, the newspapers open a window into centuries of Scottish history. The collection, which dates from as early as 1641, comprises 961 titles from all over Scotland. It features rare gems such as the first copy of ‘The Scotsman’ from 1817.

Without funding for essential conservation and preservation work, an estimated 65 per cent of the newspapers risk being lost to degradation.

Award-winning crime writer Val McDermid regularly uses the Library's collections for research. 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."

With the public's support and donations, conservators can carry out repairs and prepare pages for digital scanning. Conservator Claire Hutchinson, who is working 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.

"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."

Visit the Save Scotland's Newspapers appeal page for more information or donate to the appeal.