Friday 27 May 2011

Will Google ever be able to do this? Celebrating 190 years and the moments that made the Guardian

A superb exhibition on 190 years of the Guardian has opened at its Kings Place office in London showing the amazingly rich history of a paper whose origins go back to the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in 1819.

The massacre couldn't be reported by a Times journalist because he had been locked up. Instead a couple of Manchester businessmen supplied The Times with the story of how the cavalry had charged a crowd demanding reform at St Peter's Field, killing 15 and injuring many others. They went on to found the Manchester Guardian in 1821.

Brilliantly curated by Stephen Moss, the exhibition is divided into 190 moments that have made the Guardian. It is a wonderful tribute to what makes a newspaper at a time when the future of the printed press is so much in doubt.

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger, speaking at the opening of the exhibition, admitted that it was impossible to say what the circulation of the paper will be when it celebrates its 200th anniversary in 10 years time. "People love print, I love print, " he said "But there are all these forces conspiring against print."

He said a few years ago it would have been incredible to think the Guardian would be reaching 49 million readers a month on the internet.

Rusbridger said there was a thread running through the Guardian from the early days, and the way in which it had risked unpopularity by opposing the Boer War and the Suez invasion, to Paul Lewis investigating the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests in London in 2009 and being the only paper prepared to report on phone hacking by News International.

Among the exhibits on show are Guardian correspondent Frederick Voight warning about the rise of Hitler, Richard Gott seeing the body of Che Guevara after he was killed in Bolivia and an article by D.H. Lawrence about young soldiers heading for the front in 1914, unfortunately bylined "H.D. Lawrence".

As well as famous front pages showing the first man on the moon, the sinking of the Titanic and the Kennedy assassination there are the more quirky features that make up a newspaper.

For example, the April 1 1977 spoof supplement on San Serriffe, ruled by General Pica, which led to some readers asking if they could book a holiday on the mythical islands. And the Guardian really did run a comic strip featuring the scantily clad Varoomshka.

I love print and left the exhibition thinking will 190 years of Google ever match what a newspaper like the Guardian could do?

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