Application guide — Collaborative Newspaper Digitisation Programme

Find out how to apply for our collaborative newspaper digitisation programme. The guide includes a link to our online application form.

1. Introduction

Use this guide to help you apply to get historic newspapers digitised and included on the Papers Past website.

Papers Past

1.1 Programme options

There are three options for participation in the programme:

  • Digitise this year: If your newspapers are already microfilmed, they can be included right away – we digitise microfilm because it's cheaper and easier than doing the original papers.
  • Microfilm for next year: If your papers need filming we'll do that now, and digitise them in next year's programme.
  • Letter of acceptance: If your submission is accepted but you need funding, we'll supply a letter of acceptance you can use to help fundraise for next year's programme.

1.2 Key information

Applications have closed for this year's Collaborative Newspaper Digitisation Programme.

2. Programme overview

2.1 Purpose

The purpose of the Collaborative Newspaper Digitisation Programme (Collaborative Programme) is to allow organisations of all sizes the opportunity to get heritage newspaper titles digitised and published on the Papers Past website. To help target these titles we allocate funds to include 80,000 pages per year within the Collaborative Programme.

The Collaborative Programme titles are treated as an extension of the National Library of New Zealand programme of work. Participants in the Collaborative Programme benefit from the National Library’s established workflows and relationships. At the same time, by working collaboratively we are able to increase the amount of New Zealand digital content made available to researchers.

2.2 Aims

The Collaborative Programme aims to:

2.2.1 Increase the range of digitised content

By working collaboratively, we can provide access to a wider range of newspaper content. Working together also helps avoid duplicating effort and resources.

2.2.2 Provide better value

At the Library, we maintain best practice procurement processes. These processes ensure that we use suppliers that deliver maximum benefit and the best value for money. The Collaborative Programme is treated as an extension of our existing work and uses these supplier arrangements.

2.2.3 Open and equitable programme of work

All applicants’ titles that are in scope and meet our criteria will be accepted into the Collaborative Programme, within the limits of the size of the programme.

3. How it works

3.1 Identify a newspaper

The first step in the Collaborative Programme is for you to identify a newspaper title or titles for inclusion. The newspaper you have identified must meet the scope of the Collaborative Programme (see section 4 for details).

3.2 Select an option

There are three options within the Collaborative Programme:

3.2.1 Digitise

If you have funding and the title is already microfilmed, you may apply for a share of this year’s Collaborative Fund.

3.2.2 Microfilm

If your title is not yet microfilmed and you have funding, you may apply to get the title filmed in the first year and digitised in the second. You will be responsible for 100% of the microfilming costs and will have access to the 50% cost share in future year(s) to get the title digitised.

3.2.3 Letter of Acceptance

If you require funding to get your title digitised, you may still apply for inclusion in the following year. We will give you a letter of acceptance valid for one year. This letter may then be used to assist with your funding applications or provide you with a target for fundraising.

3.3 Apply

You are now ready to apply.

You will receive an email upon receipt of your application. Please contact us if you don’t hear back within 10 days.

Applications have closed for this year's Collaborative Newspaper Digitisation Programme.

3.4 Finalise programme

Once we receive your application, we will assess the newspaper/microfilm for quality, completeness and any rights issues. We will contact you to discuss if required.

The pages for digitisation are then divided amongst the applicants. As the Collaborative Programme is limited to a maximum of 80,000 pages per year we may not be able to include all the pages you have requested.

Where microfilming is required we will discuss the options with you. In general, all microfilming will be carried out a year before any digitising.

Once the details are finalised we will provide a digitisation agreement and a signed letter of acceptance into the Collaborative Programme. Sign the digitisation agreement, return a copy of this and the digitisation process will start.

3.5 Digitise

On completion of the signed paperwork, the title will be included into the National Library of New Zealand Newspaper Digitisation Programme. Our vendors will duplicate your microfilms, and then capture the images and convert them to text. We'll look after all this for you; in the meantime, you could tell your community about the coming release of the digitised material.

3.6 Publish on Papers Past

Once we get the digitised data back, we’ll assess it to see if it meets our quality standards. Any issues identified will be resolved. Once it has passed these tests it will be included for release in Papers Past. We'll notify you in advance of the release of the material. We will aim for the data to be live by mid-2023.

3.7 Invoice

We will invoice you for your share of the digitisation costs after we have received final page counts and vendor costs. This will be some time around May 2023. We’ll talk to you about the best way to invoice your organisation. If you have special invoicing requirements (such as needing to be invoiced by a particular date), please let us know as soon as possible.

3.8 Final steps

We add the data to the National Digital Heritage Archive, where it will be digitally preserved to ensure long term access.

4. Scope of programme

Titles included in the Collaborative Programme need to meet the following criteria:

  1. It’s a newspaper.
  2. It was/is published in New Zealand or the Pacific.
  3. It's of regional or national significance.
  4. The date range can be up to and including 1950 and should be continuous.
  5. It is free of rights issues or these can be resolved in time.
  6. The minimum run of a title is one year.

4.1 What is a newspaper?

We use the Library of Congress definition:

A newspaper is a serial publication, appearing usually at least weekly, which serves as a primary source of information on current events of general interest. While format can vary widely, newspapers are normally published without a cover, but with a masthead or banner, and are normally larger than 12 by 17 inches.

On a practical level, we will consider a publication to be a newspaper if it meets at least six of the following seven criteria:

1. it is a source of information on current events of general interest
2. it is printed at least weekly
3. it is originally printed on newsprint
4. it does not have a cover
5. it does have a masthead
6. it is A3 or greater in size, and
7. it has four or more columns on a typical page.

4.2 Date range

A criteria of the Collaborative Programme is to limit the date range of newspapers to those published up to and including 1950.

We prefer to start digitising a title from the beginning of publication or the earliest issue available. When extending the run of an existing title, we like a run be continued seamlessly without introducing gaps in the date range.

4.3 Rights

Before we include a title in the Collaborative Programme, we must assess its copyright status (see section 6). If you are thinking about including newspapers published after 1920 in your application, there may be copyright issues that need to be resolved.

Please get in touch with us by 11 February 2022 if the title range extends past 1920.

5. Costs

The basis of this project is cost sharing.

5.1 Principles

The principles are:

  • we will share the cost of digitisation up to a maximum of 80,000 pages per year (excluding microfilming original newspapers)
  • the cost of digitisation includes direct costs and overheads
  • we will invoice actual costs (as far as we are able) rather than the estimates in this document, and
  • the full cost of microfilming will be paid by the applicant.

5.2 Estimates

Please note the costs are based on the estimated frame count of the microfilm, so these costs are subject to change.

Option 1: If the newspaper has already been microfilmed, we expect digitisation to cost approximately $0.70 per page, your half of which is $0.35 per page.

You will be invoiced for your half of costs by June 2023.

Option 2: If the newspaper has not yet been microfilmed, the process will run over two years.

  • Year 1: microfilming costs. We estimate these to be $1.30 per page. We will discuss options with you, but you are responsible for meeting the full cost of microfilming.
  • Year 2: we expect digitisation to cost approximately $0.70 per page, your half of which is $0.35 per page.

6. Rights in newspapers

Before we can digitise newspapers for Papers Past, we have to assess its copyright status and gain the consent of the rights owner if necessary. We also need permission from the owners of the master microfilms, if that is not the National Library.

Any research you can do to investigate the ownership of the title before applying will be of great assistance to us. Please include any sources used in the research in your application.

We will contact any rights owners you identify to make sure we have the appropriate permissions.

Newspaper copyright is difficult to summarise, but the key point is that newspapers published after 1920 may contain in-copyright articles.

Our policy is to assess the level of copyright risk before digitising any newspaper that was published after 1920. We determine whether there are significant copyright risk factors and how they can be mitigated.

Risk factors that we look for in post-1920 material include:

  • active publishers who own the copyright
  • material that was licensed, such as cartoons, press association articles or crosswords, particularly if the licensor is still active, and
  • authors who are explicitly named, for example in the by-line of an article.

If the newspaper (or any article within the newspaper) is still in copyright, we will attempt to gain permission from the appropriate sources, or resolve any copyright issues, before the publication can be digitised.

6.2 Microfilm ownership

As we digitise from microfilm, it is essential that the microfilm owner consents to the digitisation process. Usually this is not a problem because either the National Library owns the master microfilms, or you do. If this is not the case, we will need permission from the owner of the master microfilms before the publication can be digitised.

We strongly recommend that master microfilms created as part of this programme are donated to the Alexander Turnbull Library to ensure preservation in a controlled environment.

Need help?

If you need help with your application or have questions email us at

Download the application guide

Download the Collaborative Newspaper Digitisation Guide (pdf, 110KB)