Straits Times archive search made easy
Thu, Aug 27, 2009
my paper

By Dawn Tay

GONE are the days of poring through musty rolls of microfilm in libraries to dig up information on events in Singapore history.

Soon, all it takes to access more than 160 years of news in The Straits Times is to type a few keywords into a computer, just like in a Google or Yahoo search on the Internet.

A new service by the National Library, NewspaperSG, has digitised issues of The Straits Times from 1845 to 1982, with the rest up to 2006 to be completed early next year. Issues after 2006 have already been digitised.

The service, a collaboration between the National Library Board (NLB) and Singapore Press Holdings, pulled in more than 10,000 visitors in June - 13 times more than in March when the service was launched.

An NLB spokesman said: "The Straits Times content covers more than 160 years of events and news in Singapore. The digitised archives will be especially useful to researchers, students and the literary community."

Users may access the service from computers in all libraries at three cents a minute.

They can also access it for free from home through a website (http://newspapers.nl.sg), but only 50 words of each article will appear.

The service has been invaluable to Dr Ooi Kee Beng, a fellow at the Institute of South-east Asian Studies. Using it, he has dug out interesting nuggets of information about former deputy prime minister Goh Keng Swee, on whom he is writing a biography.

For example, he discovered that Dr Goh had won a consolation prize in a limerick newspaper contest in 1932, when he was 14 years old.

Dr Ooi recalled the pains of using microfilm: "You have to search for the film, get hold of it, line up to use the machine and manually scroll through the greyscale reel. It's no fun to look at and it can take half a day if you're lucky. It's like looking for needles in a haystack."

On the new service, he said: "I have news from 1845 up to now at my fingertips. That makes research both easy and difficult. It's easy because I can quickly look for things and get the results on my screen. But it also overwhelms you with information."

The new service also "provides me with a strong time context, as I can sort through and view the items by date", he added.



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