We collect every newspaper published in Victoria (plus some interstate and overseas editions too). That’s nearly 300 newspapers each week. Some of the papers in our collection date back to the 1800s. That means we provide a wide-ranging look at Victorian history and the lives of its citizens. After all, nearly everyone appears in a newspaper eventually.

The Sun, 1927

Bound copies of The Sun from 1927.

An expansive collection

When we say our newspaper collection is big, we mean it.

We collect at least two copies of every newspaper published in Victoria. That includes regional papers, papers in languages other than English (so if, for example, you need to find a copy of Tygodnik Polski, we’ve got you covered) and special interest titles. They arrive daily, beginning at 8am. Interstate and international papers arrive later in the day. The papers are added to our catalogue and then sent down to the Family History & Newspaper Reading Room for the public to read.

The Family History & Newspapers Reading Room

The Family History & Newspapers Reading Room

But you’ll find more than the day’s news in the Reading Room. You can help yourself to the last three months of our newspapers—we have more than 400 tubs storing our current Victorian, interstate and international papers. Plus there are thousands of rolls of newspapers on microfilm, covering thousands of separate titles throughout history. That’s a lot of news and a lot of history.

And it doesn’t stop there. At the start of each month, the oldest papers are sent to our warehouse for storage. How many papers are there? We have 100,000 volumes covering 4,000 titles. Our collection holds some of the oldest Australian newspapers on record. We have copies of Victoria’s earliest paper, the Melbourne Advertiser (published in 1838), which you can view online, and the first newspaper in Australia: the Sydney Gazette, which dates back to 1803.

If you need to find something published in a newspaper, be it a record of a significant event or just an ad for something you bought, chances are it’s in our collection. To make things even better, you mightn’t have to come into the Library to find it.

We’ve digitised thousands of our collection items. That includes a lot of newspapers, which you can read via Trove. There are over 330 Victorian papers available on Trove, dating back to the 1800s. You can access entire runs of some papers and even search their text via keywords.

Want an in-depth look at how we digitise our newspapers? This post explains the process using the Bendigo Independent, which was published from 1902 to 1918, as an example.

Digitising the he Bendigo Independent.

The Bendigo Independent about to be scanned for digitisation.

The benefits of age

Our newspaper collection is old and that’s exactly why people use it as much as they do. That age is a strength, not a detriment. It lets you go beyond simple statements of fact—say, for example, that Bendigo changed its name to Sandhurst in 1854 and back to Bendigo in 1891—and find out why things unfolded the way they did. It can take you into the daily lives of people and towns that might otherwise go unnoticed. What was life like for people living in regional Victoria during World War I? You can find out.

Bendigo Advertiser, 1891

The Bendigo Advertiser discussing a name change for the town in 1891.

Newspapers are a regular record, and often the only record, of history as it unfolds. It’s a primary resource for a wealth of events, from the major to the incidental. They can tell you the stories of your ancestors and your communities in a way other sources of information cannot.

The future

Our new Newspapers and Family History Reading Room.

Our new Newspapers and Family History Reading Room.

What’s changing for our newspaper collection under Vision 2020? The Family History & Newspapers Reading Room is moving a beautiful heritage gallery that’s currently closed to the public. It’ll take our wide-ranging collection and place it in a comfortable, useable space filled with natural light and stunning architecture.

Our newspaper collection is already one of the best ways to uncover the past; Vision 2020 will ensure you have one of the best places to do it in too.

If you’d like to support our new Newspapers and Family History Reading Room, please donate to our Vision 2020 appeal. Any donation, no matter how big or small, will help bring this new space to life.