Kent's 150-year-old newspapers will be archived online
A landmark project will make historic Kent
newspapers dating back more than 150 years
available online, The KM Group can reveal.
The digital archive - made possible by a Heritage
Lottery Fund - is set to open a hidden jewel of
Led by the HR Pratt Boorman Family Foundation, the project has
secured a grant of £49,700 to digitise KM newspapers from
The 26,000 pages will be free to view on a fully searchable
It will be available as a unique learning resource for Kent
schools offering a fascinating record of the extraordinary years
which shaped the county we live in.
The pages span the Victorian era of innovation through to the
monumentous turmoil of the First World War.
Librarians and archivists, university professors, historians and
school children have been involved in viewing and testing the pilot
project pages, which helped secure the lottery funding.
The project is actively supported by English Heritage, National
Trust, Chatham Historic Dockyard, the British Library, the Imperial
War Museum, Kent County Council, the University of Kent and Christ
The KM Group’s digital archive project manager, Lesley Bellew,
said: "It has taken two years to secure the grant.
"We are delighted because instead of the fragile papers being
hidden in a basement, the digital archive will give users worldwide
a unique view of Kent history."
The project is a landmark for regional newspapers.
KM Group editorial director Ian Carter said: "This a
revolutionary step in the KM Group's 150-year history.
"We are the first regional newspaper to undertake such a venture
on behalf of our community.
"We are looking for volunteers across Kent to become involved in
"They do not have to be experts but they should have a passion
for their Kent heritage.
"Cataloguing and preparing pages before they are digitalised
will be time-consuming but hugely rewarding.
"We will ask volunteers to come in to the KM Group offices for
training prior to undertaking any work on the newspapers.
"We hope the volunteers will also become involved in roadshows
and exhibitions linked around the digital archive."
A teaching pack to accompany the digital archive will also be
provided for Kent schools.
Pupils at Godinton Primary School, near Ashford, have tested the
digital pages as part of their history lessons.
Head teacher Jim Holditch said the children had found the
archive a "brilliant learning tool".
He said: "It is bringing history to life. The local history
aspect is so important and relevant to the children.
"There would not be a more powerful resource to teach history in
Stuart McLeod, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East England,
said: "This project provides an unrivalled source of information
for the people of Kent, whether residents, students or historians,
for a period spanning the mid 19th century until after the First
"It will underline the importance of local and regional
newspapers as an indispensible work of public record."
The grant to digitise historic pages is particularly fitting at
a time when the KM Group is commemorating the 70th anniversary of
Kent’s role in the Second World War - when HR Pratt Boorman served
as a KM reporter.
His granddaughter Libby Lawson, of the HR Pratt Boorman
Foundation, is thrilled to be able to unlock the early news pages
and see the family tradition of journalism taken into a new
She said: "This is an exciting opportunity to make such a rich
source of history available to everyone in the county - both now
and for future generations.
"It will also be a fantastic tribute to everyone who worked on
these publications during the period to capture the diverse day-
to-day life of the people of Kent."
If you would like to be involved in the digital archive
project please email Lesley Bellew at firstname.lastname@example.org or
call 01622 794673.
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