Recently on NARAtions we announced that the Ancestry partnership agreement was up for renewal and available for public comment until August 21, 2015. We received almost 70 responses (thank you!), from which a number of themes emerged. Digitization Division director, Markus Most, previously addressed a few of these concerns as an update to that post. These concerns are again listed below:
How will records digitized by a partner be available to the public?
Records digitized and made available by partners are available online for free in all NARA research rooms across the country. You can use our public access PCs or NARA’s wifi to reach the sites for free.
Will NARA receive digital copies of the material digitized by the partners?
NARA receives a set of images and metadata from the partner when digitization of materials is complete.
Will NARA put the digitized material online?
NARA makes records digitized by Ancestry available in our online Catalog once the five year embargo period has elapsed. Records in the National Archives Catalog are available for free to the public.
Why does NARA partner with outside organizations?
To provide increased access to our records, we have partnered with both for-profit and non-profit organizations on digitization. Although they may be interested in genealogy records, the specific records these organizations are interested in can vary. Sometimes only one type of partner may be interested in a record series. We digitize in order to get our records online and expand access to them. We cannot do this by ourselves and so we are working with partners and looking into other avenues (see our Digitization Strategy for additional approaches) to make access happen. NARA has established principles for working with partners and you can read them at our NARA Principles for Partnerships page. (See our Strategic Plan for more information about our Strategic Goals.)
Two additional themes emerged from researcher feedback that we would like to respond to:
The embargo period is over for some partner images. Where are those images in NARA’s online catalog?
In 2013, NARA posted the first 250,000 partner images that could be released from the 2007 digitization year. Since then, we have continued to add images and additional capacity to handle the tremendous growth of the National Archives Catalog. There are currently over 5.25 million images in the Catalog. A significant proportion of these images come from our partner projects with new images added to the catalog on an ongoing basis.
Additionally, the partners have undertaken many digitization projects outside of the digitization partnerships, particularly before the partnerships were established. Partners oftentimes purchased microfilm publications, digitized them, and made them available on their websites. Because these images were produced outside of an agreement, NARA does not receive a copy. For example, the Revolutionary War pensions were digitized prior to a partnership agreement and are therefore not available through our catalog.
What quality control measures are in place to address indexing quality, image quality, and scanning accuracy?
Our quality control procedures currently are:
QC of imaging is the responsibility of the partner, following standards reported to, and approved by, NARA. The precise standards are proprietary information.
QC of metadata is the responsibility of the partner, following standards reported to, and approved by, NARA. The precise standards are proprietary information.
QC of content is the responsibility of NARA – Specifically, NARA does a page-by-page review against a five percent sample of the original records to find and identify information which might have been left out, such as the back of a document that has only a stamp or small notation. All such information has to be captured. (Higher levels are reviewed if quality concerns surface during review.) The partner corrects any omissions found in the review. Skipped pages are imaged and inserted into the images folder at the correct location.
QC relating to transfer of digital materials to NARA – The partners send the digital materials to NARA on hard drives. NARA staff checks a sample of the images and metadata to verify that the metadata on each hard drive is associated with the correct image and that the metadata the partner agreed to provide is delivered. The staff also checks a sample of the unique identifiers associated with each image to verify that the identifiers are correct. If there are problems with the metadata or images sent by the partner, NARA contacts the partner to resolve the problems.
Based on both internal and external feedback, our quality control processes are under review.
Thank you to all of the researchers who have taken the time to provide feedback on the renewal of the Ancestry partnership agreement.