The royal Library of Belgium launched the BelgicaPress service on Friday, an advanced user interface making millions of pages from old newspapers available. Elke Sleurs (N-VA), secretary of state for Scientific Policy, was the first to use it. 1.2 million pages of newspapers dated 1831-1918 are available for research on the BelgicaPress search engine from Friday. A total of over 4 million pages have been digitalised (up to 1950), but only papers pre-dating 1918 will be free. “This new interface is a big step forward in the preservation of our heritage, as well as offering much greater efficiency for users,” pointed out Patrick Lefevre, director of the royal Library. Old papers are very brittle, and their digitalisation started in 2006. Thanks to the OCR (optical character recognition) procedure, research is now possible in digitalised documents from elements of a text (or words).
With 4 million pages digitalised, the royal Library of Belgium is one of the top 6 largest collections of digitalised newspapers in the world, points out the institution. Some of the others are the American Library of Congress, the British Library, and the French National Library.