Tuesday, 16 September 2008

National Archives launches Digital Microfilm online

The National Archives (Kew) has released digitised images of entire indexes from their catalogue, which can be downloaded through their Documents Online service for free. The idea is that these will eventually replace the need to access microfilms containing the images, but there is a snag - you're going to need broadband, and a lot of memory on your hard drive!

From the site:

Digital Microfilm is a project piloting a new way to deliver records online. The National Archives has a large collection of microfilmed records, and by making these available online we hope to increase their accessibility. This will ultimately allow the microfilm readers used at The National Archives, Kew to be retired.

We have digitised four records series of military and naval records. If the project is successful, we intend to add a wide variety of record series covering many different areas of interest. Many of the records are indexes and we hope that these will be helpful in locating other relevant records.

The new way of delivery is by using very large pdfs, each of which contains a whole piece, which could be up to 800 pages long. This means that Digital Microfilm is only available to online users with a broadband connection, and to users in the Reading Rooms at The National Archives.

These records have not been indexed, and so you will need to scroll through the pdfs, much as you would when using a microfilm. However, we would be more than happy for users to transcribe any of the Digital Microfilm content, and post it on Your Archives, The National Archives' online community of records users.

These documents are free of charge to download.

The record indexes are seriously large documents, up to 400MB in size (a CD will hold 700MB), and those that have been digitised are as follows:

ADM 142 Navy Board, Navy Pay Office and Admiralty, Accountant General's Department: Registers of Seamen's Wills 1786-1909

ADM 175 Records of service of the Coastguard 1816-1947

WO 144 War Office: Inter-Allied Armistice Commission: War Diary, and Despatches of Chief of British Delegation 1918-1920

WO 338 War Office: Officers' Services, Index to Long Number Papers, 1870-1922

The TNA website at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/digital-microfilm.asp gives further information on how these classes break down further into different folios.

It will be interesting to see how this idea plays out as a venture. If successful, further releases are likely.


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