In collaboration with the Library of Birmingham, British Library and Find My Past, this project aims to digitise Birmingham's Aris's Gazette which, at it's time, was one of the most lucrative and important regional papers in the country.
Established in 1741, Aris’s Birmingham Gazette was described by Asa Briggs as one of the most lucrative and important regional papers in the country with a reputation for its political impartiality and which, even in the eighteenth century, was circulated over a wide geographical area.
Founded by Thomas Aris in 1741 as the Birmingham Gazette and General Correspondent by 1743 it had incorporated rival Richard Walker’s Warwick and Staffordshire Gazette thereby becoming the Birmingham’s only newspaper at the time and with a lineage that extends to the current Birmingham Post.
The Library of Birmingham [LoB] holds an almost unbroken run of the newspaper from 1741 to 1825. Unfortunately, due to the fragility of the collection, physical copies are currently inaccessible to readers. Although LoB has virtually a complete set available on microfilm, the quality of the images and the inconvenience of using microfilm effectively makes access impossible. However, thanks to the generosity of a local benefactor who has underwritten the entire project, Dr Archer-Parre is collaborating with the Library of Birmingham, the British Library [BL], and FindMyPast [FMP] on a project to digitise eighty-four years of Aris’s issues,thereby making an immensely valuable resource available online to researchers and the wider public.
The major problem facing the project was the precarious condition of some of the issues which meant they were in danger of degenerating when handled. The consensus of the project partners was that priority should be given to capturing the content of the newspaper over its preservation: that any image was better than the current situation. Therefore, significant stabilising conservation work was undertaken on some of the newspapers prior to digitisation. A careful system of sorting and triaging was initiated and carried out by the LoB and BL in order that the most appropriate issues were selected for scanning. Post-processing was undertaken by FMP.
The project is due for completion in July 2022, when Aris’s Birmingham Gazette will be made available through the British Newspaper Archive, which is published and managed by Findmypast, in collaboration with the British Library. Access is free at the British Library’s Reading Rooms in St Pancras and Boston Spa and at the Library of Birmingham. In September 2022 there will be a city-wide launch as part of Birmingham Heritage Week to celebrate this important resource, the availability of which will certainly open new possibilities for investigations into the region’s history and aid the work of researchers from so many domains.