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Questions About Finding Historical Newspapers and Articles
I'm looking for a particular newspaper. How can I get it?
- If you know the title, start by checking Vera to see if MIT Libraries has it online, or Barton to see if we have it in microfilm or paper for the year(s) you want. Look at the list of online newspapers in this guide to see if you can get it through MIT, the Boston Public Library, or a free web site.
- If you’re looking for a specific article and you have title, date, and other citation information, but MIT doesn’t have that paper, request the article through ILB. Articles requested through ILB are usually delivered as PDFs.
- Google it! The newspaper's online archives might be available online for free or for a fee. If their site lets you search for old articles but requires payment to read them, use the free site to figure out the citation information and then request the articles through ILB.
- If you are looking for a title but don’t have a specific article in mind, use Worldcat to find out where the newspaper is held and how common it is (click on "Libraries Worldwide" to see a list of libraries that have it). If you’re lucky, a Boston Library Consortium member or other library in the Boston area will have the microfilm, and you can use it in person (check their online catalog first to make sure they have the years you want). You can also try to request reels of microfilm through ILB, though this is not as reliable as requesting particular articles. Try to narrow down the years you want to limit the number of reels requested. When libraries lend this microfilm, they usually only lend a small number of reels for a short period of time.
- If you’re looking for a smaller local newspaper, try contacting that city, town, or region’s nearest public library. Local papers are usually microfilmed and archived by local libraries, and reference librarians there can tell you about their holdings and if there is an index to help you find articles.
How do I identify a newspaper from a particular place or period?
- Try the lists on other pages of this guide of digitized newspapers and collections. There are some large digital collections, such as America’s Historical Newspapers or 19th-Century British Library Newspapers, that give an extensive selection of papers from a particular place and period.
- Use Worldcat:
- Click on "Advanced Search."
- Type "mt: new" as a Keyword search in the first search box.
- In the second search box, choose "Publisher location" or "Subject -- Geographic Location" and type a location.
- Check "Serial Publications" next to "Limit type to."
- In the "Format" dropdown menu next to "Subtype limit," choose "Microform."
- Humanities librarians can also help find print directories of historical newspapers to identify newspapers by region and period.
How do I find an article about a specific topic in the newspaper I’m reading?
If you are trying to find articles about a particular subject or event in a newspaper and there’s no way to search online, it’s useful to have an index, which is a directory of articles. Check the library catalog or Worldcat to see if there is an index.
If you can’t obtain an index for the newspaper, you can look at other indexes for newspapers in the region or for national newspapers to try to narrow the date range, or else do other historical background research (i.e., read reference or secondary sources) to try to narrow the range in order to minimize the amount of manual searching you have to do. Note that sometimes the index is included in the microfilm reel rather than separately in print.
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