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Centuries of newspaper history are celebrated

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Centuries of newspaper history are at the heart of a unique Archant Norfolk archive which has just celebrated its 75th anniversary with staff from the past six decades in attendance.

The remarkable archive of cuttings, photographs and centuries-old newspapers that is the Archant Norfolk editorial library at Prospect House in Norwich was celebrated at a special reception, attended by many of the people who created it over the past 75 years.

Staff from the past six decades gathered to mark the 75th birthday of the library in the Prospect House boardroom on November 20 – and marvel once again over some of its treasures. The collection, acknowledged as one of Britain’s very best regional newspaper archives, is packed with the stories and pictures of the people and events of Norfolk, from the beginning of local journalism.

There are bound volumes of the Norwich Mercury from the 1750s, the very first Eastern Daily Press from 1870 and news stories and photographs of countless thousands of national and local events.

Alan Atherton was chief librarian for 33 years, starting work in 1961. “I loved it. It was something different every day, well every hour really,” he said.

His career spanned the introduction of computers, but in pre-digital days he would have cut out and filed hundreds of thousands of stories. And his favourite? “Probably something I’d written because I was Sprowston correspondent too, for 25 years!” he said.

Frances Pearce worked in the library for almost as long, with 32 years service. “I loved doing the research for members of the public,” she said. “You would go back through the bound volumes and see the wonderful old adverts.

“It was just so interesting. But then, the whole job was interesting.”

Another former librarian at the celebration was Val Chaplin Gale. “I actually found out about my own family while I was working here,” she said. “I found stories about my grandfather, who was killed in the first world war, and how he had won the DSO (Distinguished Service Order.)

“My mother was a baby when he died so we didn’t really know anything about him.” Archant Norfolk editor-in-chief, Nigel Pickover, paid tribute to the work of the library and its staff, saying: “Across Britain the need for our newspaper libraries remains undiminished, the quality of the work within them undimmed.”

Current librarian Rosemary Dixon said the library, founded in 1938, was one of the best and most comprehensive regional newspaper libraries in the country.

Pictured above, present librarian, Rosemary Dixon, left, celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Editorial Library at Archant, with former librarians. From left, Joy Wright, Val Chaplin Gale, Frances Pearce, and Alan Atherton. Picture: Denise Bradley

© Archant Ltd 2013