I was going to write about the power outage in the eastern part of Shaw this morning, but I got an email through my local professional organization about a supposed deal between The Generations Network, Inc.(TGN), the company behind Ancestry.Com and the DC Archives.
Jonetta Rose Barras reports and is critical of the proposed deal. In short TGN wants to digitize DC Archive material and make it available for a fee on its website. Considering the poor access to materials at the DC Archives now, I think it is a good thing. Compared to the Library of Congress, National Archives, Washingtonia Room at the MLK library, and the Washington Historical Society’s archive/library, places that have posted hours, available staff and are set up to deal with researchers, the access is poor. Paid access is a step up from nearly no access. Better would be free access.
And Ancestry does provide some free access. There is the Social Security Death Index, which is helpful in finding dead DC tax payers. The Jewish Burial Index (DC) is free and the 1880 Census is free, with registration. Then again, one could just go to an institution where they have a subscription to the service and access all the databases there.
But the claim that the “‘physical and intellectual control’ of the city’s vast repository of historical records would be relinquished to an outside entity.'” as some elements of wrong in it. At worst DC would be loaning records for the purpose of digitizing. At best the digitization would be on-site or local. But once the digitization is done, the records go back on the shelves. The District of Columbia isn’t the first, and won’t be the last local goverment to have their records digitized by TGN.
I use Ancestry for work and research and the database has been very helpful, making quick work of some time consuming searches. And to make even my work easier by adding more D.C. items would make me so happy.

One thought on “Access”

  1. I often agree with Jonetta, but not this time. I wonder if she knows how non accessible these DC records are.


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