Yesterday Google released it’s latest search service, News Archive Search which provides for access to newspapers and magazines, and other historical archives dating back more than 200 years. Results will lead to both free and pay content on publishers websites.
The search works just as you would imagine, but there’s a nice feature with a menu along the left letting you refine your search to certain time periods, through a timeline. You can see the menu in this image from my search for George Washington to the right. If you look at the partial results I left in the image you’ll notice the #2 result is about George Washington University, however by clicking on older dates in the timeline the results become more focused on the father of our country (‘our’ being any of us living in the U.S.).
As you click older dates to refine the results you get more dates even further back. This George Washington search allowed me to read the text from the Edinburgh Advertiser from 1776 at the NewspaperArchive.com site. The text was extracted from a scanned image of the original using an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) program and isn’t quite perfect as many of the words are a bit garbled. It is enough to get the gist of the article and had I wanted I could have paid to see a larger image of the original print copy.
You can also see in the image of the results that you can refine your search by specific publications in addition to the timeline. Using the advanced search option you can refine these on your own without the help of the menu links.
The service is a pretty nice one for a history buff like myself and will no doubt be a useful resource in saving a trip to the library for anyone doing research. As for how results are determined Google says:
News archive search aims to rank results such that the articles/events that would be of interest to users exploring history appear first. We take into account the full text of each article, the publication in which the article appears, how often the underlying event has been referred to or described, in what manner and by whom.
The databases where most of the information returned by the news archive has previously been unspidrerable because of where the information resides. This releases a wealth or previously unavailable information from the ‘dark web’ as the unspiderable pages have been called.
There isn’t any focus on monetization by Google at the moment, though that’s probably only because they haven’t figured out how yet. Missing are the usual text ads even for a search like viagra, which interestingly enough did return results prior to 1889 like the 1873 reference to Viagra Falls, which I assume is the OCR program’s failure to accurately produce Niagra Falls.
Overall the new service looks pretty good. Perhaps of more interest to those researching reports and articles or anyone interested in reading some very old newspapers, but a valuable service nonetheless. Most of the information contained here should be made available and many of those supplying the databases containing the information have been asking Google for quite some time to make this kind of services available. All in all a worthwhile new service.