The British Library at Thorp Arch is all set to receive the biggest archive collection of newspapers in the world thanks to a £33m purpose-built storage area.
Work is currently under way to move the historic national newspaper collection at the world famous London British Library to its Thorp Arch site.
The British Library, which has had a branch at Thorp Arch Trading Estate, near Wetherby, since 1962, will move its entire national newspaper archive from Colindale, London to the site in a £33m project.
As part of its first milestone, a new state-of-the-art storage facility has been built at the branch to preserve one of the world’s oldest newspaper collections.
At the unveiling of the new storage facility on Thursday, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey visited the site.
He said: “It is a great investment in the regional economy that we have here, and great business for the British Library.
“Alec Shelbrooke (Wetherby MP) should be praised for his work to help secure the future of this investment.
“It is a very important part of this economy.”
The newspapers, which will be moved to the new site from early 2013, will eventually comprise of 750 million pages in the new warehouse.
They will be accessed by cranes, and kept in the pitch black to help preserve them better, library bosses said.
Wetherby MP Alec Shelbrooke, who campaigned for the expansion after it was faced with the axe as part of a government spending review in 2010, welcomed the new storage system.
He said: “It will protect the future of this site, with such a large investment coming from the government and will create new jobs, moving this section of The British Library forward.
“Newspaper storage is such an important issue for the history of our country.”
The collection, widely regarded as the largest in the world, has newspapers dating back to the 17th century and all UK and national daily and Sunday newspapers since 1801.
Early copies of regional and local papers such as the Wetherby News, which was first published in 1857, will also be stored there.
The move is part of a wide-ranging newspaper programme from The British Library over the next 10 years.
The new facility includes cutting edge technology and strict environmental conditions to keep the newspapers in a preserved condition.
Steve Morris, Director of Finance and Corporate Services, said the project, which will not be fully completed until Autumn 2014 “was a huge logistical exercise.”
He said the papers will be kept in the strictest conditions to prevent fire risk.
“The oxygen level will be very low.
“The level will be about 14 per cent, which means you wont be able to even strike a match in there.”
As well as the expansion, The British Library is aiming to digitise as many of its newspaper collections as possible.
The online archive currently has around six million scanned pages which people can view free online, but the library aims to increase this to make it easier to search for items.
The digital scanned pages are also available to view at the library’s reading rooms.
The British Library, which is home to the Magna Carta, is also home more than 150 million items including books, manuscripts, maps, magazines, prints and drawings.
For more information visit The British Library website at http://www.bl.uk.