Navigating Libraries and Archives for Investigations
By Ricardo Ginés
In short: Explore how to use local or digital libraries and archives more efficiently and take an in-depth look into their possibilities and resources. From newspaper archives to video repositories, reference interviews to sound archives, learn what these knowledge treasures can offer you in your investigations.
Love people from archives and libraries
“I love people from archives and libraries”, Pavla Holcová told me recently via email.
As an experienced award-winning investigative journalist, founder of Prague-based investigace.cz and regional editor for Central Europe at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), it’s safe to say Pavla Holcová knows her way around a library.
“Sometimes, librarians or archivists can be a bit robot-like, and if you don’t use the proper wording in your request, you’ll never get the file or report you need,” she continued. “Once you master the requested language, though, you feel like the king (or queen) of the place. But there is also another type, one more human and talkative. On many occasions, they made my life much easier and my work much more advanced, because they offered me something I believed was impossible to have or I didn’t know existed.
Moments like this would happen often:
Librarian: ‘Do you also want a copy of the contract to study it at home?’
Me: ‘Of course I want it! Wait… I can get a copy of the full contract, really?’
Librarian: ‘Do you also want the previous conviction of this guy?’
Me: ‘Of course I want it! Wait… he was already convicted?!’
Librarians and archivists are a real treasure, and I need more of them in my life.” (Pavla Holcová)
Libraries and archives: what’s the difference?
Libraries and archives are not only important, but often crucial for investigative research. But wait a second, what are the differences between them? Aren’t they more or less the same?
Indeed, the definitions of library and archive can overlap as archives are often housed within a library, and a library itself can be sometimes considered as a combination of archives.
One common definition of a library comes from UNESCO, which describes it as an “organized collection of books and other materials (periodicals in electronic or in printed form or of any other graphic or audio-visual materials).” This description puts an emphasis on the collection of resources and the librarian’s mission to “facilitate the use of such information resources (…) to meet the (…) needs of its users.”
The Society of American Archivists explains that “archives also exist to make their collections available to people, but differ from libraries in both the types of materials they hold, and the way materials are accessed.” For example, libraries tend to hold published works, often mass produced and replaceable, whereas archives can hold both published and unpublished materials, often rare or unique, across any format. And, “since materials in archival collections are unique, the people (archivists) in charge of caring for those materials strive to preserve them for use today, and for future generations of researchers” (see Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research) This means that archives usually have much stricter guidelines around access to these resources. Think of archives as an archaeology museum: there are a lot more artefacts safeguarded in deposits than actually exposed and open to the public.
Making the most out of reference services
In today’s highly specialized world of libraries and archives, the masters of the bibliographic universe are the librarians or archivists who have undertaken rigorous training to guide you through the labyrinth of documents and resources.
This guidance is called reference services, which encompass any personal assistance in identifying library materials needed to answer a question or aid an investigation.
One form this guidance takes is the reference interview, similar to the conversation Holcová described above. During reference interviews, librarians and archivists can help you create and edit a research or bibliographical list (i.e. a list of readings) about what you are after. Reference interviews are crucial to meeting the information needs of library users and can be conducted in person or via email, chat and phone. Nowadays, at least in some libraries around the world, requests are commonly completed through the Virtual Reference Service (VRS), which is monitored by trained information specialists who are there to help and will answer you promptly.
If you require in-depth research, as is common in investigative reporting, you need to be very intentional about the questions you submit to librarians and archivists. To avoid the further needs of clarification, questions should be specific and thorough. Mind when investigating sensitive topics and always conduct a risk assessment on what is safe or unsafe to mention/ask to a third party before you start reaching out to a librarian, or submit requests via a Virtual Reference Service, or when reaching out to anyone else for that matter.
Here is a strong list of questions adapted from the scholarly article “Virtual Reference Interviewing and Neutral Questioning” that you can ask yourself before submitting a research request:
In brief, what is my topic about?
What have I already found?
What additional information do I need?
What type of information do I need (books, articles, audio, etc.)?
Do I need current or historical information?
Last but not least, inform yourself carefully about possible costs (photocopies, transportation to the library or archive, etc.). And remember: not everything is available online, so don’t be surprised if you are asked to visit the library in person to further your research. This is especially the case in many smaller libraries, in small towns, remote areas, etc. As in the archive, there are a lot of items that are not digitized or freely available outside of the library.
Just as anyone can be an investigator with a little effort, so too can anyone become an expert archive digger or library master. For proof, look no further than two of the best introductory guides to investigative journalism, Story-based inquiry: a manual for investigative journalists and The global investigative journalism casebook (first written by and second edited by Mark Lee Hunter.)
What do both of the volumes have in common, besides being part of the UNESCO Series on Journalism Education? They both highlight the importance of the library’s reference services, which they qualify as “under-appreciated” in the first book and the “most underappreciated assets” in the second.
“Story-based inquiry” cites (on page 20) the example of investigative reporter Anne-Marie Casteret’s book L’affaire du sang, or [Blood Scandal](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infected_blood_scandal_(France)], in which she proved that the French government knowingly sold hemophiliacs and their families blood products contaminated by HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. Following up on Casteret’s investigation, journalist Mark Lee Hunter set out to research and assemble “all the scientific literature on blood transfusion and AIDS before the scandal erupted” (see Story-based inquiry, p. 35.) Instrumental to Hunter’s investigation was the librarian at a major teaching hospital, who provided him with a full list of relevant articles and scientific literature on the topic. With the librarian’s help, “the task was completed in an afternoon” writes Hunter. Read more about other cases, methods, open sources and creative ways of using libraries and archives in the 3rd chapter of Story-based Inquiry “Using the Open Doors: Backgrounding and deduction.”
Newspapers archives: remembering the potential of history
“Before the spread of the internet, I used to make my archive searches on microfilms and big machines looking like arcade game cabinets, which made it pretty mysterious”, says Nicolas Cheviron to Exposing the Invisible.
Cheviron is a long-time foreign correspondent based in Turkey working for several French media outlets. Currently, he writes primarily for mediapart, a Paris-based news portal (in French, English and Spanish) very well known for its investigations.
“Among the things that I found thanks to the archives at Atatürk Library were old pieces of news on Erdogan’s youth – including information on his father’s first wife and his half-brothers in the Black Sea, details on his career as a football player and his time as a public bus company employee – which would have been difficult to find on the internet”, he told me in an interview.
Cheviron’s research perfectly illustrates the enduring historical value of newspaper archives. A newspaper is not only what you enjoy drinking your morning coffee or tea with, but a piece of history in itself. “Remember the potential of History!” This is what newspapers are shouting in their archives, waiting for us.
Newspaper archives also permit us to look easily into what has been researched about a certain topic in different countries. In fact, that should be one of the first steps of an investigation. As Paul Radu’s Follow the Money guide notes: “Data from foreign press reports as well as from official press releases in other countries may prove very valuable for investigative journalists working in various countries.”
Newspaper archives are rich repositories of possible headlines, useful images, potential new contacts of other journalists, scientists, sources, topics and timelines for your investigations. Moreover, as Paris-based author, scholar, and investigative journalist Mark L. Hunter points out in Story-based Inquiry: “news clips can serve as ice breakers in interviews; the reporter may ask the source to confirm whether the information in the stories is accurate and go from there.”
Digging for treasure: why thematic archives are so important for investigators
Alexenia Dimitrova, an experienced investigative journalist from Bulgaria, specialises in secret archives from the Cold War era, as shown in several of her books like The Iron Fist, The King’s Secret Files, Murder Bureau, and The Secret Files of Sol Polansky.
Her main area of expertise is in cross-border investigations drawing on interviews, archival material and Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. Since the mid-1990s, she has relied on declassified archives and governmental information requests in Bulgaria and the United States. She has spent years perfecting this method, also called archival investigation or archival research, an important branch of investigative reporting (see page 25 of the Investigative Journalism Casebook).
“Reading inventories and writing FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests is not the most interesting thing - it could be even boring”, she admitted to me.
Tedious as these methods can be sometimes, Dimitrova has learned that they are crucial. She has drawn several lessons from her experience:
“If I was to advise someone about fundamental research techniques for archival investigation, they would be:
Read inventories yourself (do not count on other researchers or archival specialists);
Read all files that seem close to your subject, even if some of them do not appear to have a direct relation;
Don’t just look at the documents in front of you - always try to identify in the documents human sources, places or new hints whom you will approach or research deeper;
Never set limits to what you will do with the documents. My initial intentions usually have been to write a series of newspaper articles, but they very often changed to also writing documentary books or making documentaries.”
In this regard, let us recall that there is unfortunately a widely-shared misconception or prejudice among investigators: a vision against offline archives, somehow entailing buildings with huge and old paper-collections, being part of the ostracized past as everything is digitized today.
The truth is, however, that modernity is not possible without tradition and vice versa.
For example, look at the case of OCCRP (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project)’s ALEPH database, one of the best online databases and archives related to companies, business owners and other related records used by investigative journalists nowadays. The website explains the origin of its name: “Aleph is named after a short story written by the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges, The Aleph. It tells of a magical place that encapsulates all other places: Truth cannot penetrate a closed mind. If all places in the universe are in the Aleph, then all stars, all lamps, all sources of light are in it, too.”
Or look at one of the first fundamental books, Monde: Essai d’universalisme (World: Essay on Universalism, Paul Otlet: 1935), which contained concepts predicting the rise of the World Wide Web more than fifty years later, including its search engines and even hyperlinks.
“Everything in the universe,” Paul Otlet wrote, “would be registered at a distance as it was produced. Thus, a moving image of the world would be established… From afar, anyone would be able to read any text, expanded or limited to the desired subject, projected on an individual screen. Thus, anyone from his armchair would be able to contemplate the whole of creation or particular parts of it.”
Otlet’s “Universal Decimal Classification”
a bibliographic and library classification systematically organising all branches of human knowledge where themes and fields are related and inter-linked - is still being used by many libraries and bibliographic services outside the English-speaking world to this day!
Examples of Thematic Archives:
Interference Archive: https://interferencearchive.org/our-mission/
An open-access archive of social movement ephemera (pamphlets, posters, buttons, t-shirts, etc).
The Civic View From Above: https://cargocollective.com/hagitkeysar
A project and image archive by researcher and activist Hagit Keysar, including research and collaborative work Hagit has done with Public Lab’s DIY aerial photography toolkit in spaces of political conflict. (read and watch more about Hagit’s earlier work in Exposing the Invisible’s interviews on “Photography, mapping and power” and the documentary film “From My Point of View.”
Egyptian Revolution Archive: https://858.ma/
“The 858 archive is a vast collection that documents famous and tragic events as well as more mundane ones - a collage of scenes and moments that add up to an incomplete but rich and moving people’s history. Activists have worked for years to make this material free in every sense.”
Syrian Archive: https://syrianarchive.org
“Syrian Archive is a Syrian led project that aims to preserve, enhance and memorialise documentation of human rights violations and other crimes committed by all parties to conflict in Syria for use in advocacy, justice and accountability.”
Yemeni Archive: https://yemeniarchive.org/
“Yemeni Archive preserves, enhances and memorialises documentation of human rights violations and other crimes committed by all parties to conflict in Yemen for use in advocacy, justice and accountability.”
Sudanese Archive: https://sudanesearchive.org/
“The Sudanese Archive preserves, analyses, and memorialises documentation of human rights violations, conflict, and acts of resistance in Sudan. We do this by archiving and curating visual documentation in our database and on this website for news media, accountability processes, and transitional justice. We also provide training and support for other archival efforts in Sudan.”
Digital Library of the Middle East: https://dlme.clir.org
“In response to the tragic displacement of people, loss of life in conflict zones, and ongoing threats to the cultural heritage of the Middle East through destruction, looting, and illicit trafficking, the Digital Library of the Middle East (DLME) has begun to federate Middle Eastern collections from around the world, creating a publicly accessible, inter-operable digital library of cultural material.”
Database of the 3rd World Archive Centers Cooperation: https://www.archiv3.org/seite_regionen.htm
“In autumn 1998, eleven archives (of the The German Federal Solidarity and Third World Movement) formed a network to make their work more efficient and better coordinated: it is called the Archiv3 Cooperation of Third World Archives.”
ISIS files: https://isisfiles.gwu.edu/
“In 2018, The New York Times and the George Washington University announced an exclusive partnership to digitize, translate, analyze, and publish over 15,000 pages of internal ISIS files obtained by Times investigative journalist Rukmini Callimachi and her Iraqi colleagues during embeds with the Iraqi army. Extensive work has been done by the George Washington University to preserve and present the information contained in The ISIS Files in an accurate, accessible, secure, and impartial manner. The ISIS Files project will continue to publish new documents, released in thematic batches.”
Funded in 1991, Statewatch is an NGO and resource monitoring civil liberties and the state in Europe, in particular the European Union, with a European network of contributors from 18 countries. It includes publications of “investigative journalism and critical research in Europe in the fields of the state, justice and home affairs, civil liberties, accountability and openness.”
National Security Archives: https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/virtual-reading-room
“The National Security Archive, which is not connected to the U.S. government, collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. This engine searches the growing collection of primary-source documents the National Security Archive has published on this web site. New materials are added frequently. The listing is chronological.”
Sites of Memory / Memorias Situadas: https://www.cipdh.gob.ar/memorias-situadas/en/
An interactive map in permanent update that covers different Sites of Memory related to serious human rights violations around the world. With this, the CIPDH-UNESCO aims to raise awareness about how different communities examine their traumatic past by showcasing diversity, uniqueness and similarities in the way we “deal with remembrance” and “make history known to new generations.”
“SIDtoday is the internal newsletter for the NSA’s most important division, the Signals Intelligence Directorate. The Intercept released four years’ worth of newsletters in batches, starting with 2003, after editorial review. From the documents and the accompanying articles available in this archive, you can learn a surprising amount about what the agency’s spies were doing, how they were doing it, and why.”
Academic journals: an endless source of empirical evidence
Sometimes your investigation might call for information more rigorously researched or specialised knowledge than you would find in a typical newspaper. In those cases, you’ve got a friend in academic journals. In one of my own investigations, these journals were essential. My research focused on the fight against looters of historical heritage in Spain and the Caribbean, and I had to figure out what kind of threats underwater archaeologists were currently facing in each and every country involved.
The great treasure hunters who make up the fascinating world of underwater archaeology, like the famous case of the Odyssey Marine Exploration team, tried to determine the locations of documents and files in archives - especially the General Archive of the Indies, in Seville - before embarking in search of lost galleons.
In order to enable countries to better protect their submerged cultural heritage from the treasure hunters mentioned above, UNESCO developed the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.
Determined to know more about the topic, I found myself digging mostly into scholarly articles on underwater archaeology in the Caribbean (specifically Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia) and Spain, trying to find out patterns that would help the article’s narrative about the systemic looting and to identify who was an expert in which country, so that I could contact and interview them directly.
But first, to better understand what they would say to me, I had to take a look into scientific research about technological advances in underwater probes, that is, underwater instruments to detect objects. The result helped me to understand that the digitization of historical archives can actually help treasure hunters learn where sunken ships are, therefore threatening countries’ cultural heritage.
The experience made something crystal clear to me: we need academic works to provide us with source material known for its accuracy, scrutiny and rigour.
This can be a symbiotic relationship. Often enough, scholars can feel dissatisfied at the lack of dissemination of their work, however brilliant it may be. Journalists, on the other side, rely on academics as frequent sources for news stories. We are not so fond of their jargon but trust their empirical evidence. Academics provide journalists with rigorous, evidence-based research, while journalists translate the technical jargon for a wider audience, and provide academics with a platform to make their research and findings known.
Not surprisingly, data journalism, a journalistic sphere very akin to investigations, is becoming closer to the academic world, which makes clear that new forms of collaboration are or will surely emerge.
Given the value journalists - and other investigators - and academics offer each other, a greater collaboration between both groups should happen. Fortunately, the gap is already being addressed, with what has been traditionally called “science journalism” - a special genre that aims to “translate” jargon-laden scientific papers into journalistic prose while ensuring accuracy along the way. Examples are sites like The Conversation, which promises “academic rigour” and “journalistic flair”. Other examples, like Germany’s Geo, France’s Science et Vie or Spain’s Tendencias21, also provide good, scientifically-proven sources for news.
In search of academic literature, let us focus now on four useful tips:
1. Head to the library for closed-access journals
Many scientific/research journals aren’t free and gaining access to an article may be costly. The best way to avoid a paywall is to make use of your library card. Also, if you are looking for a certain topic, you could ask a librarian which research sources you may be able to go deeper in or are the most convenient. Librarians can provide a good list of subscription journal databases. Universities have access to journals for their students so it’s worth visiting a University’s library to ask for support even though you may not be a student. You may often find that librarians there are really friendly and eager to help.
Note also that many University libraries as well as other large and well-resourced libraries usually provide access to other very useful research databases that can be of help for investigators, such as Mint Global, Orbis or LexisNexis. These are paid - and quite costly - resources that offer a limited free trial (which may as well be useful for you to try out) on their websites. However, large libraries and universities (especially those with business and legal departments) in many countries might often have subscriptions and can allow the public to access such information in their venue.
Lexis Nexis, another paid database, also indexes information from company records, court records and local, regional and international media resources, among others.
2. Access Google Scholar and Internet Archive Scholar from the comfort of your laptop
Google Scholar is not much different than Google but specialized in scholarly literature: you can search through many disciplines finding the right article, book or document you are after. The Internet Archive Scholar is again a full text search index (with over 25 million scholarly documents) but this time preserved in the Internet Archive - the world’s largest collection of digitalised materials and home of the Wayback Machine, the best tool for archiving and retrieving archived online content.
While searching in the “scholar” databases, you may sometimes find the full text, other times just the metadata (author, year of publication, table of contents etc.) of the scholarly literature, Remember that Google Scholar and Internet Archive Scholar are useful searching machines when it comes to academic fields and trying to find articles there on certain topics.
3. Check Open Access resources for hard-to-find journals
Open access means a “set of principles and a range of practices through which research outputs are distributed online, free of cost or other access barriers” (source Wikipedia). If you don’t know which articles are open-access and which not, the best way to find out is to look for a directory of open-access journals like the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). DOAJ was launched in 2003 and as of 2021 it contains over 16 000 peer-reviewed open access journals covering all areas of science, technology, medicine, social sciences, arts and humanities. It also invites open access journals from all countries and in all languages to apply for inclusion.
For more information about open-access and subscription-based scholarly publications take a look at the “Academic Journals / Books” section of this guide.
4. Consult country-specialised archives to narrow your search
If you need quality-open access texts, but also specialised in one country, try to find out which directory could serve you better.
Scielo.org is for example specialized in Spanish-and Portuguese-speaking countries.
The Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) facilitates the digitisation of archives around the world that are in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration.
WorldWideScience.org is a global science gateway comprised of national and international scientific databases and portals.
And finally, are there any other sources?
What other sources could serve you in investigations - beyond special archives, scholarly articles and newspaper archives?
Well, in short, there are many. Let’s look at library collections and other resources
Actually, you as an investigator should think about your local library as a living organism, constantly evolving: not even its librarians know what will happen with the resources they will offer in the near future.
One example is Hoppla, which defines itself as “a groundbreaking digital media service offered by your local public library that allows you to borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows to enjoy on your computer, tablet, or phone - and even your TV.” Institutions like Hoppla are quickly becoming the norm rather than the exception, even though such a place would have been unthinkable in the recent past! Among the ever-growing array of digital resources, streaming video collections are becoming more and more common.
Another example of a fast evolving library is the New York Public Library, which has a list of 841 and growing possible resources - historical collections, special interest publications (like handbooks, conference papers and leaflets), film scripts, cartographic material (maps), archive finders and more.
Therefore, today more than ever, it makes sense to scroll down through the whole or at least wide parts of the catalogue of the possible resources of your library and write down which ones you think may be helpful to start with. As you may find something useful or just fortunate that you wouldn’t have expected - in librarian terms, a serendipity! - and could definitely be used in an investigation.
For example, if you are looking for good illustrations to go with your article or research - to go along with a good conscious design or just as an inspiration for further reading, you could look into the free-to-use 30 million digital image-deposit of the National Library in Spain.
In any case, no matter how wide your search is meant to be, always try to use the “advanced-search” mechanisms that most databases offer so as to narrow your findings and to avoid wasting time.
What follows is a useful index of libraries and archives worth keeping in your investigator / researcher ‘toolkit’ at all times.
Index of libraries and archives
The Newspaper Map: https://newspapermap.com/
If you are dealing in your investigation with a country of which you don’t know much about, you can check in the “newspaper map” to figure out what kind of media is present there. For international front pages, check out: https://www.freedomforum.org/todaysfrontpages/
Internet Archive: https://archive.org/
You may the Internet Archive mostly to retrieve the content of deleted or modified webpages and websites from the Wayback Machine, yet there is also a newspapers archive there. It says: “The newspapers in this collection have been scanned as part of a pilot project using microfilm and microfiche. After using a microfilm/fiche scanner to create a digital image of each page, we process the resulting images so that each reel is contained in a single item with easily navigable files.”
Google News Archive: https://news.google.com/newspapers
Google News Archive is an extension of Google News - a news aggregator service developed by Google, which provides links to articles indexed from thousands of publishers and magazines. The Google newspaper archive project “was discontinued by Google, although they stopped digitizing and adding new papers and removed their useful timeline and other search tools, the historical newspapers that were previously digitized remain.” Check also these search tips for Google news archive.
“Launched in 2009, the World Digital Library (WDL) was a project of the U.S. Library of Congress, with the support of UNESCO, and contributions from libraries, archives, museums, educational institutions, and international organizations around the world. (…)” “The materials collected by the WDL make it possible to discover, study, and enjoy cultural treasures and significant historical documents including books, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, journals, prints and photographs, sound recordings, and films. Books, manuscripts, maps, and other primary materials on the site are presented in their original languages. More than 100 languages are represented in the WDL collection, including many lesser known and endangered languages.”
International Coalition on Newspapers (ICON): http://icon.crl.edu/digitization.php
It “highlights and links to past, present, and prospective digitization projects of historic newspapers. The focus is primarily on digital conversion efforts, not full-text collections of current news sources.”
“Elephind.com is much like Google, Bing, or other search engines but is focused on only historical, digitized newspapers. It enables you to search, for free, across many newspaper sites simultaneously, rather than having to visit each site separately. By clicking on the Elephind.com search result that interests you you’ll go directly to the newspaper site which hosts that story.”
Newspaper archive: https://newspaperarchive.com/
It does cost money to use, but there is a 7-day free trial.
EUROPEANA allows you to “explore the headlines, articles, advertisements, and opinion pieces from European newspapers from 20 countries, dating from 1618 to 1996”
Created with the Center for Research Libraries (one of the world’s most important newspaper repositories), Readex includes historical newspapers published in Africa, Latin America, South Asia and other regions. Features include searchable digital replicas and you can access it, if possible, through your library
Eastview includes titles from over 80 countries, thousands of global newspapers as searchable online archives, covering a diverse range of languages. For individual researchers, they set up trial access only in special cases. They want to work with your local library, so you can check if the service is provided.
Resources in specific languages
For French-speaking countries:
Gallica: https://gallica.bnf.fr/html/und/presse-et-revues/presse-et-revues (including a list of the main newspapers)
“Gallica is the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Established in 1997, today it contains nearly 3 million digital documents - books, manuscripts, maps, images, sound recordings and newspapers. The library has 1.3 million newspaper and periodical pages to date, including Le Figaro and L’Humanité, with new content being added all the time. The content is all French, of course (but there are English-language searching tools), and is a mixture of free and paid-for content. You can search by title, author, text, date, language, broad subject, document type and access type (i.e. free versus paid-for content), and there are useful filtering tools.”
British Newspaper Archive: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/search/advanced
Indexes materials from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales
German speaking countries
The newspapers-archive of the DDR / former East Germany also included.
Spanish speaking countries
Biblioteca Digital del Patrimonio Iberoamericano (BDPI): http://www.iberoamericadigital.net/
“BDPI (Biblioteca Digital del Patrimonio Iberoamericano) is a project launched by the Asociación de Bibliotecas Nacionales de Iberoamérica (ABINIA). Its objective is the creation of a portal which provides access, from a single search point, to the digital resources of all the participating libraries.” “BDPI does not store digital objects but the bibliographic information and metadata referred to them. Details and conditions for access and use to the digital objects are eventually subject to the terms and conditions set by each participant for the resources in their own repository.”
Hispana brings together the digital collections of Spanish archives, libraries and museums:
The Hispanic Digital Library: http://www.bne.es/es/Catalogos/BibliotecaDigitalHispanica/Inicio/index.html
“The Hispanic Digital Library is the digital library of the National Library of Spain. It provides free and open access to thousands of digitized documents, including books printed between the 15th and 20th centuries, manuscripts, drawings, prints, brochures, posters, photographs, maps, atlases, scores, historical press, and sound recordings.”
Prensa Historica: https://prensahistorica.mcu.es/es/inicio/inicio.do
“The Virtual Library of Historical Newspapers (BVPH) (…) is a digital newspaper library where the public has access to an extensive, varied and growing collection of historical newspapers and cultural magazines in Spanish languages.” “As of February 2019, this newspaper library offers about eight and a half million digitised pages that are free to read and are openly available.”
Hemeroteca Digital: http://hemerotecadigital.bne.es/index.vm
“This periodical and newspaper library was created in March 2007 to provide public access to the digital collection of historical Spanish press items housed in the national library, with an initial collection of 143 newspapers and periodicals. The range of titles has been growing, and there are currently 2,371 titles, which is over 67 million pages.”
The Virtual Library of Bibliographic Heritage (BVPB): https://bvpb.mcu.es/en/inicio/inicio.do
“The Virtual Library of Bibliographic Heritage (BVPB), managed by the General Subdirectorate for Library Coordination under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, is a digital library offering the public access to a valuable and growing collection of digitised facsimiles of manuscripts, printed books, historical photographs, cartographic material, musical scores, and other material that is housed in memory institutions (archives, libraries and museums) and forms part of Spain’s bibliographic heritage.”
Press and magazines in Spanish:
El Pais (archive): https://elpais.com/archivo/ - “In this archive you can find the contents published in the printed edition of EL PAÍS from its first issue of May 4, 1976 to February 7, 2012. As of this date, the editorial staff of EL PAÍS has changed its system of work and publishes your information and articles indistinctly in the digital and printed edition, so you can find all our content in the EL PAÍS Newspaper Library.” You need to subscribe to access but, if not, you still have 10 free articles each month:
La Vanguardia: https://www.lavanguardia.com/hemeroteca - La Vanguardia, a Barcelona-based newspaper, written in Catalan and Spanish and specialized in international news, just became 140 years old, as it has been published without interruption since 1881. “Non-subscribing users can consult the complete archive of La Vanguardia from the year 1881 up to 30 days before the current date for free.” You can order your search either through relevance or through date. Is also possible to download the whole issue of a certain date as a -pdf and to see your topic with a timeline:
ABC: https://www.abc.es/archivo/periodicos/ - Founded in 1903, the ABC newspaper has been published ever since. ABC has eleven editions in Spain, among which the Madrid and Seville editions stand out especially, by age and presence. Its archive is paid content.
Chronicling America: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/
“This is a newspaper digitisation programme sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program. It covers newspapers published 1860-1922 for the following states: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Papers available include The San Francisco Call, The New York Sun, The Washington Times, The Colored American, and The New York Evening Times. Currently there are some 7.2 million pages from 1,270 titles.” See also: https://www.loc.gov/rr/news/oltitles.html
Russian and East European
Imperial Russian newspapers-archive: https://gpa.eastview.com/crl/irn
Russian and East European Historical Newspapers from the Duke University Libraries: https://guides.library.duke.edu/historicalnewspapers
Besides these general-content digital newspaper archives you will have of course the ones specialized in only one country or theme.
International Coalition on Newspapers (ICON): http://icon.crl.edu/digitization.php
Icon contains a list of different nations and where to look at. It also highlights “links to past, present, and prospective digitization projects of historic newspapers. The focus is primarily on digital conversion efforts, not full-text collections of current news sources.”
Wikipedia Newspapers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:List_of_online_newspaper_archives
Wikipedia List of online newspaper archives
This list includes archives that collect a range of resources on topics, issues and formats covering a wider geography - international and sometimes worldwide.
Internet Archive: https://archive.org
“Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more. Our archive contains: 475 billion web pages; 28 million books and texts; 14 million audio recordings (including 220,000 live concerts); 6 million videos (including 2 million Television News programs); 3.5 million images; 580,000 software programs, etc.
Archives Portal Europe: https://www.archivesportaleurope.net/
“The Archives Portal Europe provides access to information on archival material from different European countries as well as information on archival institutions throughout the continent.”
UNESCOs digital archives: https://digital.archives.unesco.org/en/
“UNESCO’s institutional archives and historical audiovisual collections contain evidence of over 70 years of ideas and actions for peace and international understanding that span the Organization’s wide-ranging fields of competence.”
“A collection of websites, news coverage, and commentary surrounding the Wikileaks releases. This collection includes documents released from the Afghan war diaries and the Iraq war logs, as well as the more recent release of the US State diplomatic cables. Please note, there are thousands of news articles, blog entries, etc. that are not listed below. To access these, the best way is to perform a search for the content you are interested in.”
The Unified Court Records Database (UCR): https://ucr.irmct.org/
“The UCR provides online access to public court records of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT or “Mechanism”). Records obtained from the UCR are for public information only.”
Open Society Archives: https://www.osaarchivum.org/archives
“An essential resource on the post-war political, social, and economic history of what was the Communist half of Europe. Fonds include the extensive collection of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Research Institute, documenting RFE/RL’s extensive monitoring, research and analysis activities from the early 1950s to the regime changes and beyond, until the mid-1990s, under the auspices of the Open Media Research Institute.”
The National Security Archive (Washington): https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/virtual-reading-room
“Founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents (”the world’s largest nongovernmental collection” according to the Los Angeles Times), leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets.”
The Archives and Documentary Collections Guide: http://atom.ippdh.mercosur.int/index.php/informationobject/browse
“It is part of a research project implemented by the MERCOSUR Institute for Public Policies on Human Rights (IPPDH) on archives and documentary collections related to the serious human rights violations committed in the framework of repressive coordination in the Southern Cone in the past recent. In particular, the site contains the first guide to archives and documentary collections related to the subject of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.”
Archives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF): https://www.imf.org/en/About/Archives
“The Archives of the Fund present a rich source of information for the analysis of the IMF core activities throughout its history. These primary resources offer a unique view of the IMF work, policies, decision making processes and member country relations, covering economic issues of interest: global monetary cooperation, financial stability, sustainable economic growth and other.”
European Central Bank (ECB) Archives: https://www.ecb.europa.eu/ecb/access_to_documents/archives/html/index.en.html
“The ECB’s institutional memory is kept in the ECB Archives. Documentation of historical value in any format is selected, safeguarded and preserved to meet internal and external information requests and enhance the transparency of the ECB. The ECB Archives include audiovisual material and artefacts.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Archives: https://archives.nato.int/
“NATO Archives Online facilitates the online consultation of the publicly disclosed formal documents of the NATO International Staff (IS) and International Military Staff (IMS). In the coming years, NATO Archives Online will also include publicly disclosed documents originating from Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).”
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Archives: https://www.oecd.org/general/oecdarchives.htm
“The OECD Library & Archives collection dates from 1947. It includes records from the Committee for European Economic Co-operation (CEEC) and the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC), predecessors of today’s OECD. The collection contains items which document the Organisation’s work including agendas and minutes of Council and committee meetings, background documents, technical and working papers, publications, press information, and Secretary-Generals’ speeches.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Archives and Records: https://www.unhcr.org/pages/49da066c6.html
“Established in 1996, the archive even includes material that predates the creation of UNHCR in 1950, documenting more than half a century of field operations around the world, as well as material from our headquarters.”
Council of Europe Documents, Records and Archives: https://www.coe.int/en/web/documents-records-archives-information/home
“The Council of Europe is an international organisation founded in the wake of World War II to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Founded in 1949, it has 47 member states.” “The Council of Europe Archives (…) were set up in 1949 soon after the Organisation was created. Open to the public, they constitute a unique research source for the early history of European integration. Files are declassified under the Council of Europe’s one-year, 10-year and 30-year rules, which are explained on the Archives website. (…) Part of the archive collections can be searched online using the Council of Europe’s Webcat database. “
Archives of the Council of the European Union: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/documents-publications/archives/
“The Council of the European Union, often referred to in the treaties and other official documents simply as the Council, and informally known as the Council of Ministers.” “The Council’s archives collect and process the documents produced or received by the Council of the European Union in the exercise of its functions. Archives relating to files closed more than 30 years ago are accessible to the public.”
Archives of the World Bank: https://www.worldbank.org/en/about/archives
“The Archives of the World Bank (…) provides public access to records of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). This website offers a variety of online historical resources and information products, such as ISAD(G) finding aids, transcripts of oral history interviews, and exhibits featuring the Archives’ collection and World Bank history.”
Archive Grid: https://researchworks.oclc.org/archivegrid/
ArchiveGrid is a collection of over five million archival material descriptions, (…) that contains archival collections held by thousands of libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives.
Academic Journals / Books
“JournalTOCs is the largest, free collection of scholarly journal Tables of Contents (TOCs): 33,659 journals including 16,359 selected Open Access journals and 11,884 Hybrid journals, from 3769 publishers. JournalTOCs is for researchers, students, librarians and anyone looking for the latest scholarly articles. JournalTOCs alerts you when new issues of your Followed journals are published.”
Science Direct (Elsevier): https://www.sciencedirect.com/
Search for peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters (including open access content)
Academic Journals: https://academicjournals.org/
“Academic Journals is a publisher of peer-reviewed open access journals. Academic Journals currently publishes over 100 open access journals covering art and humanities, engineering, medical science, social sciences, biological sciences, physical sciences and agricultural sciences.”
Open Research Europe: https://open-research-europe.ec.europa.eu/
“Open Research Europe is an open access publishing platform for the publication of research stemming from Horizon 2020 funding across all subject areas. The platform makes it easy for Horizon 2020 beneficiaries to comply with the open access terms of their funding and offers researchers a publishing venue to share their results and insights rapidly and facilitate open, constructive research discussion.”
PLOS ONE: https://plos.org/
“PLOS is a nonprofit, Open Access publisher empowering researchers to accelerate progress in science and medicine by leading a transformation in research communication. PLOS publishes a suite of influential Open Access journals across all areas of science and medicine.”
“An open database of 29,207,130 free scholarly articles. We harvest Open Access content from over 50,000 publishers and repositories, and make it easy to find, track, and use.”
“arXiv is a free distribution service and an open-access archive for 1,891,879 scholarly articles in the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering and systems science, and economics.”
Europe PMC: https://europepmc.org/
“Europe PMC is an open science platform that enables access to a worldwide collection of life science publications and preprints from trusted sources around the globe.”
OAPEN Online library and publication platform: https://oapen.org/
“OAPEN works with publishers to build a quality controlled collection of open access books. OAPEN operates two platforms, the OAPEN Library and - in partnership with OpenEdition - the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB). The OAPEN Library is set up to host and disseminate OA books.”… “OAPEN promotes and supports the transition to open access for academic books by providing open infrastructure services to stakeholders in scholarly communication.”
The Network of Scientific Journals of Latin America and the Caribbean, Spain and Portugal ( La Red de Revistas Científicas de América Latina y el Caribe, España y Portugal, Redalyc) is a network of non-commercial Open Access scientific journals owned by the academy.
Sci-Hub (a shadow library): https://sci-hub.do/
“The first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to tens of millions of research papers” that are also protected by copyright-laws. The site believes that “Such laws effectively slow down the development of science in human society.”
“Users submit queries and computation requests via a text field. WolframAlpha then computes answers and relevant visualizations from a knowledge base of curated, structured data that come from other sites and books.”
“BASE is one of the world’s most voluminous search engines especially for academic web resources. BASE provides more than 240 million documents from more than 8,000 content providers. You can access the full texts of about 60% of the indexed documents for free (Open Access). BASE is operated by Bielefeld University Library.”
Library Collections and Resources Beyond
Some more outstanding examples of what you will be able to find out there:
Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc.: https://www.ire.org/about-ire/
“Access essential resources for any journalist. With our extensive research library containing more than 25,000 investigative print and broadcast stories and more than 5,000 tipsheets from our national conferences, workshops and training, you’ll have all the tools you need to get to the bottom of your story and the top of your field.”
“WorldCat is the world’s largest network of library content and services. WorldCat libraries are dedicated to providing access to their resources on the Web, where most people start their search for information. You can search for popular books, music CDs and videos - all of the physical items you’re used to getting from libraries. You can also discover many new kinds of digital content, such as downloadable audiobooks. You may also find article citations with links to their full text; authoritative research materials, such as documents and photos of local or historic significance; and digital versions of rare items that aren’t available to the public. Because WorldCat libraries serve diverse communities in dozens of countries, resources are available in many languages.”
World Digital Library: https://www.wdl.org/en/
“Search 19,147 items about 193 countries between 8000 BCE and 2000: Launched in 2009, the World Digital Library (WDL) was a project of the U.S. Library of Congress, with the support of UNESCO, and contributions from libraries, archives, museums, educational institutions, and international organizations around the world. The WDL sought to preserve and share some of the world’s most important cultural objects, increasing access to cultural treasures and significant historical documents to enable discovery, scholarship, and use.”
Digital Public Library of America: https://dp.la/
“Discover 43,942,039 images, texts, videos, and sounds from across the United States”
HathiTrust Digital Library: https://www.hathitrust.org/
“Hathi Trust is a large-scale collaborative repository of digital content from research libraries including content digitized via Google Books and the Internet Archive digitization initiatives, as well as content digitized locally by libraries.”
Culture Crime News: http://news.culturecrime.org/
Culture Crime News is “a growing database of antiquities and art crime articles from the popular press.”
Syllabus Pirate: https://syllabus.pirate.care/
“Convened by Valeria Graziano, Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak (Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Coventry University), Pirate.Care is a research project commissioned by Drugo More, as part of the flagship programme Dopolavoro for Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture. The project is focused on bottom-up responses to the current ‘care crisis’ that experiment with alternative forms of self-organisation, tools and technologies.”
Instead of a conclusion, let’s add more!
As any repository of resources and inspiration, this guide and its lists of resources will need to grow over time. You can help expand it by sharing any additional resources with us at: eti_at_tacticaltech.org
Published November 2021
Articles and Guides
9 tips for effective collaborations between journalists and academic researchers, by by Clark Merrefield / The Journalist’s Resource, 24 May 2021.
6 examples of newsroom-library collaborations, by Celeste Sepessy, IJNET, 3 January 2020.
Journalism and Libraries: “Both Exist to Support Strong, Well-informed Communities”, by Erin Carlson / Nieman Reports.
The Secrets of Archival Research (and Why They Shouldn’t Be a Secret at All), by Kate Stewart, 15 July 2019.
Tools and Databases
Library Map of the World, a tool providing country-level data and a worldwide comparison of different library performance metrics by region.
Films about Librarians. From Infotecarios - the website is in Spanish but most films are in English, some with translated subtitles.
Archival investigation/research – is a type of research which involves seeking out and extracting evidence from archival records (sourced from Wikipedia.)
Bibliographical list – bibliography is a list of works on a subject or by an author that were used or consulted to write a research paper, book or article.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – An information law that requires the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased documents generally controlled by a government.
Freedom of Information request – The process of requesting access to information from public institutions or companies based on established procedures and forms. This process and access is governed by Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. Not all countries have or apply FOI legislation. See AccessInfo’s Right To Information (RTI) ratings for details.
Inventory – in a library or archive context, it means registers identified with a record group or collection of publications.
Open access – means a “set of principles and a range of practices through which research outputs are distributed online, free of cost or other access barriers” (source Wikipedia).
Reference services – The term “reference service” is defined simply as personal assistance provided to library users seeking information. Individuals who hold a master’s degree in the field of library and information sciences or information studies typically provide the service.