05 October 2009

Footnote.com: BusinessWeek spotlight

Genealogists and family historians know that genealogy is big business. We know what it costs us personally to pursue our passion - multiply that by thousands and hundreds of thousands of ancestry-oriented researchers!

It is obvious that the major release of Footnote.com's Holocaust Collection was the impetus for Business Week's recent story in its Tech Beat column. Tracing the Tribe noted previously that the new release is accessible (at no charge) during October.

The Library of Congress has been aggressive in getting its assets online. Now the National Archives & Records Administration has partnerships with Google, Ancestry.com, and Footnote.com to create and make available a growing part of its vast collection.

The most recent fruit of these efforts: A large collection of holocaust-related documents just made available through Footnote. Full access to Footnote’s data normally costs $11.95 a month or $79.95 a year, but the Holocaust collection is free for the month of October.
The magazine noted that this Footnote release is - after Bad Arolsen and Yad Vashem - the world's third most significant collection of this period. Previously, the only way to access the records (from NARA and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum) was via a personal visit to NARA sites.

The article also mentions the Ardelia Hall component, which deals with Nazi looting of art and cultural treasures, as compiled by the US State Dept. Other elements include war crimes transcripts, concentration camp registers and more. Footnote offers researchers the ability to annotate items, add stories or photos.

Footnote.com's partnership with NARA means that fragile documents are now not only protected, provides expanded public global access and - most importantly - are now searchable.

The story did say that it was unfortunate that beginning in November, viewers will have to pay to see the images. NARA's partnerships fund digitization projects which preserve records and offer global access. There is a cost to that technology, but NARA - and the public, I think - understand that the ability to share and access important resources, while protecting them for future generations, is also valuable.

For researchers based around the world, online document images are valuable. An on site personal visit to look at these documents costs much more than a subscription to Footnote.com, and anyone with a computer connection can access and search the collections.

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