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February 4, 2013
Campaigners brief parliamentarians about threatened archives
A GROUP of journalists trying to preserve one of the country's hidden historical treasures takes their awareness campaign to Westminster this week.
The small group from Leeds is calling on newspaper publishers to digitise their internal libraries of cuttings and clippings covering significant figures and events.
Many originated a century ago and were an essential part of newspapers' collective memories until automatic digital archiving, intranets and search engines took over.
Concerns for the libraries - which often provide the only collated information about key local political figures or community leaders - has increased as more district offices close and newspapers move from sizeable buildings to smaller offices as printing is concentrated on fewer presses.
The journalists - all members of the Leeds branch of the NUJ - decided to instigate their campaign when fears about back editions being kept in dank storerooms unavailable for local researchers co-incided with the closure of the Yorkshire Post's landmark headquarters building and threats to its unique cuttings library.
Former MP Michael Meadowcroft, a regular Yorkshire Post obituarist and lecturer on significant figures from Leeds' past, says the cuttings libraries represent an invaluable and unappreciated resource that should - and can - be kept for future generations.
"Research in libraries and even going laboriously through the microfiche copies of some editions of papers kept in central libraries frequently produces limited success," he says, "while finding a cuttings file about a councillor from the early 1900s, for example, can be surprisingly revealing - both about the person and about the political pressures of the day."
The group has organised a parliamentary briefing in Westminster on Wednesday, February 6, during which they will be briefing MPs and members of the House of Lords about the campaign and the need for public support.
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