Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Without the question mark, that was the catchy headline in CNET... which also links to live blogging about the announcement.

Here's the thing itself, an advertising-supported search engine for whatever newspaper archives Google can find online or contract to scan, digitize and index: http://news.google.com/archivesearch

You can already search the historical archives of many magazines and newspapers through their Web sites, some at no charge and others on a pay-per-view basis. What Google offers is one-stop searching across those databases.
For example, a search for "Titanic sinks" -- filtered to just 1912 to avoid references to the Titanic as movie or metaphor --  found me almost 500 items, starting with the Christian Science Monitor, Atlanta Constitution, Hartford Courant, Chicago Daily Tribune and Boston Daily Globe -- but all of those are in the pay-per-view ProQuest Archiver. 

As might be expected, the search also found numerous stories in the free New York Times archive. The surprise was a Google News Archive copy of The Daily Advocate of Victoria, Texas, for Friday afternoon, April 19, 1912, headlined "Band Plays as Titanic Sinks." It will serve as an example of Google's own archival newspaper viewer. Will word-associated Google text ads work with this kind of search? So far, I'm not tempted by the ad for a "1918 farmouse sink."

Here's Google's archive search "About" page, which I hope will be expanded soon.

"News archive search provides an easy way to search and explore historical archives. Users can search for events, people or ideas and see how they have been described over time. In addition to searching for the most relevant articles for their query, users can also see a historical overview of the results by browsing an automatically generated timeline."

 Here's more detail, from the site's Help pages:

"News archive search searches across a large collection of historical archives including major newspapers/magazines, news archives and legal archives. Search results include both content that accessible to all users (such as BBC News, Time Magazine and Guardian) and content that requires a fee (such as Washington Post Archives, Newspaper Archive, and New York Times Archives). In addition to crawling content online, we've also worked with newspapers to digitize materials via our News Archive Partner Program. Through partnerships with newspapers around the world, the News Archive Partner Program makes unique and previously-unavailable newspaper content searchable and browsable online."

Of course Google's not the only outfit that thinks old news can be good news. Here's a piece I did a few years ago about the National Digital Newspaper Program, an article I should update... but not today.

More than 200 years of previously microfilmed and scanned newspapers are available through Proquest Historical Newspapers, if you are lucky enough to be at an institution with the right pay-as-you-go subscriptions.  The relationship between Proquest and Google isn't entirely clear in the early announcements, but perhaps Google will find headlines and offer a preview of stories behind Proquest's pay-service firewalls.

(My own university library apparently has turned down my request to add the nation's oldest continuously published newspaper to its Proquest subscription. Perhaps it was because of the annual subscription cost. I'll have to get a few campus historians to join in the request, which also should quash any suggestion that I just want to ego-surf my own old clippings to prepare my memoirs.)

Proquest offers these titles (links are to PDF advertising brochures from Proquest):
And it says these are "coming soon":
What a great time to be teaching Media History!

Note: I posted an early blurb about this at http://boblog.blogspot.com, where I'm posting more often, but less verbosely.

5:58:16 PM  #