Sunday, May 3, 2020

Revisiting the past through digitized news archives

The New York Times, which is one of the oldest newspapers in the world has digitized all its news archives starting from its first publication in 1851, giving us the opportunity to travel back in time to look at some of the most important historical events just as they happened. The stories written years after the events have taken place can help us get a glimpse of what had happened in the past but they do not take us back to feel the actual atmosphere of the time when they happened. The original news articles on the Assassination of the US President, Abraham Lincoln on 14th April 1865, published on 15th April 1865; The collision of two jumbo jets on the runway at Tenerife on 27th March 1977, published on 28th March 1977; and The assassination of Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi on 31st October 1984, published on the same day, all took me several years back in time and I felt as though I was there when those events unfolded. I had heard these stories through history books and articles written at a later date by scholars and authors, but these digitized original news reports really made me feel as though I was on a time-machine, flying backwards to see the history myself.

Most interestingly, I also found that the digitized archive of the New York Times also has a couple of stories on Bhutan, about the events that had taken place before most of us were born or were mature enough to understand what was going around us. The news about Bhutan seeking UN membership, published on 26th December 1970, the tragic news of His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo’s death on 22nd July 1972, published on 23rd July 1972 and the Coronation of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo on 2nd June 1974, published on 3rd June 1974, all gave me the opportunity to relive the history of my country although those events have taken place before I was born.

Just like what the New York Times has initiated, I wish if Kuensel, the first official newspaper of Bhutan, could also digitize its archives starting from the date of its first publication in 1967 when it was established as an internal government bulletin. It was the only newspaper that had access to important national events until the advent of online publications and other private media houses. The historical events in Bhutan covered by New York Times since 1970s would have been covered by Kuensel more accurately and from a local perspective, but since they have not yet been digitized, the present generation of Bhutanese has not got the opportunity to read the original version of the stories published at the time of the events. After the advent of internet in Bhutan in 1999, Kuensel began its online publication from 18th April 2001, but when it revamped its website later, the archive of news articles published until then were not backed up. Today, the KuenselOnline archive does not even have the stories that were published during the early 2000s. I know digitizing the entire archives would be a tedious job, but if one has the will, nothing is impossible. The digitized news archives would be certainly one of the greatest treasure-troughs of information for Bhutan in all the times to come. It would serve as a time-machine for both the present and future generations of Bhutan. It would help us get closer to the history of our own country and relate ourselves to the events that have taken place in the past.


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Additional stories related to Bhutan from the archive of New York Times:

  1. Amid Bhutan's Peaks, Rituals and Temples. October 11, 1987.
  2. Bhutan Army Expels Indian Rebels. December 27, 2003.


  1. It's great to read. Keep on writing sir

    1. Thank you so much for the comment la..... Please do come back again....