The story of the National Newspaper Collection

The newspapers have been part of the library’s history since the 19th century, but the official establishment of the National Newspaper Collection did not happen until 1916.

Newspapers are loaded by horse-drawn carriage at the Statens Avissamling Aarhus 1918

Ophav ukendt

The troublesome newspapers

Libraries and archives have not always regarded newspapers with kindness. They were considered unreliable sources. Nevertheless, newspapers became subject to copyright deposit by decree in 1781. By the end of the 18th-century newspapers, or newspaper-like publications, had been common for more than 100 years, which is the reason why the collection is missing large parts of the oldest newspapers. From around 1800 and onwards, there are only a few volumes and annual bound volumes missing in our collection.

From the mid 19th century until the beginning of the 20th century, the number of newspaper publications increased dramatically (in 1849: 42 titles, in 1914: 263 titles), even small market towns had up to four different newspapers. This put pressure on Det Kgl. Bibliotek, Copenhagen University Library, the National Library of Aarhus and regional archives, which were required by law to obtain and preserve them.

Following the start of the National Library in 1902, Det Kgl. Bibliotek's duplicates from around the period 1820-1902, were transferred to Aarhus, and here the large number of newspapers caused a substantial amount of problems. In addition, new newspapers were added in a steady stream. They took up a lot of space and had to be bound - in short, they were troublesome and expensive to deal with. During the first decade, there were so many problems regarding space and handling, that chief librarian of the National Library, Vilhelm Grundtvig, in 1910 suggested that a newspaper repository be set up as a solution. This, along with a simplification of the copyright deposit of newspapers, could also solve the regional archives’ problems with lack of space.

Establishment of the National Newspaper Collection

Many years went by with negotiations before the National Newspaper Collection was established by law on May 17, 1916, and it was decided that the collection should be situated in Aarhus. Exactly two years later, in 1918, the first library user entered the newspaper reading room, organized in the former barracks in Høegh-Guldbergs Gade. Eight reading places had been set up here for study use. New newspapers could not be read, as the copyright deposit happened biannually, after which the newspapers were bound. The staff searched the newspapers for information and made transcripts, whenever possible. The price was 1.50 DKK per hour.

The national Newspaper Collection was established as an independent institution with the chief librarian of the National Library having chief responsibility. In 1964 the National Newspaper Collection was transferred to the National Library’s new building in Universitetsparken. Over the years, the collection has increased steadily with more than 600 volumes a year. In 1977, the newspapers were moved again - this time to a new underground storeroom in connection with the library’s existing basements In the 1.300 square metres of the storeroom, 20 km of shelving were set up as compact racks, making room for the approx 64.000 volumes.

In place in a storeroom in Skejby, Aarhus

In 2007 the collection moved to a new storeroom building in Skejby, which has better conditions for preservation. Here newspapers and local magazines are stored in one place. Users have the option of reading the newspapers that are not available on microfilm or on because reading places have been set up in the same building as the storeroom. This reduces wear and tear of the often fragile newspapers because they are kept in-house and do not need to be transported.