The Middle Eastern and Northern Africa Newspaper Collection
Clara Kaul provides a brief tour of the new digital library of Middle East and North African newspapers at the Center for Research Libraries.
Researchers focused on the Middle East North Africa region know that easily accessible primary source material can be difficult to find. However, thanks to a partnership between East View Information Services and the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), over 500,000 pages of newspaper from the region are now accessible online.
Formed out of a three-year alliance between CRL and East View, the Middle Eastern and Northern Africa Newspaper collection includes 85 newspaper titles in full image and text, a collection which is sure to be an asset for researchers of many disciplines. While most of the newspapers are in Arabic, there are a number of key titles written in English and French. In terms of geographical scope, the collection is mostly limited to the Arab-speaking countries in the MENA region although there are plans for expansion.
Importantly, 80 out of 85 of the newspapers in the collection are considered “orphan works”, meaning they’ve been out of print for at least 50 years. According to most countries’ copyright law, these works are free and accessible to the general public. The collection also includes 5 titles that are currently in print. Those titles are restricted to Center for Research Libraries and East View subscribers and member institutions. Because of the copyright cut off, the majority of the newspapers were published over 50 years ago, with the bulk located between late nineteenth and mid-twentieth century. The newspapers provide a unique view of each country’s individual history, cultural context, and international perspective. Researchers interested in the Cold War will be pleased to know that there are a number of newspapers published between 1950 and 1980, which include individual country perspectives on key historical topics such as global nuclear policy, decolonization, and the fall of the USSR.
The Middle East North Africa Newspaper collection was designed for research use from its inception. According to James Simon, Director of Collections & Partnerships at the Center for Research Libraries, CRL and East View prioritized community feedback in the creation of the collection. They assembled an advisory board of librarians and researchers to identify what sorts of materials would be the most relevant. The target audience was broad; the goal was to engage international researchers, academic institutions, and the general public in high quality primary sources from the Middle East North Africa region.
Both the Center for Research Libraries and East View collected and digitized resources from a wide array of archives, libraries, and repositories. Many of the documents are physically located in the CRL’s own microfilm collection in Chicago, Illinois. Other newspapers were sourced from CRL member institutions such as Stanford University and the Hoover Institution Libraries and Archives, as well as Harvard University, Yale University, and Illinois University at Urbana-Champagne. Due to the nature of the digitized archive as well as CRL and East View’s explicit desire for a community-informed archive, the collection is broadly collaborative, drawing on a wide breadth of sources in order to craft the most relevant collection and bolster archives focused on the Middle East North Africa region.
The Middle Eastern Newspaper Collection is a part of the East View Global Press Archive (GPA), a program that prioritizes variety in global news publications optimized for scholarly use. Currently, GPA includes newspapers in over 30 languages and with the goal of including titles from over 80 countries. In 2018, East View and the Center for Research Libraries formed an alliance to “develop a special series of collections in the East View Global Press Archive following the specifications of CRL”. So far, they’ve created 4 collections, including the Middle Eastern North African Newspapers collection. Other focuses include Late Qing and Republican-Era Chinese Newspapers, Independent and Revolutionary Mexican Newspapers, and Imperial Russian Newspapers (forthcoming). All of these collections are open access, with the exception of a few current titles only accessible to CRL and East View members.
For both the Middle East North Africa newspaper collection, as well as the broader Global Press Archive, there are plans for expansion, especially as more titles reach the copy right cut off. Both CRL and East View welcome feedback and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or the feedback form on CRL’s website.
About the Author
Clara Kaul was a Spring 2021 staff intern with the Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy program. She earned a B.A. in gender studies from Smith College, where she wrote a thesis on relationship between the United States and Israel.Read More
History and Public Policy Program
The History and Public Policy Program strives to make public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, to facilitate scholarship based on those records, and to use these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs. Read more