National Archives WWII records digitized
December 10, 2008 | 10:12 pm
By Paul Biba
Ars technica, one of the best technology sites on the web, has just done a story on the digitization of the National Archives WWII records. Evidently it was done in cooperation with a for-profit company, Footnote.com, and free access is not granted forever. There seem to be a few problems with the interface, also.
The search for basic images appeared to be hit or miss. The two different aircraft carriers that saw significant action in World War II were both named USS Hornet, so I expected a rich trove of images to be returned when “hornet” was used as a search term. Over 200 images of navy press clippings were returned, but the only photos of actual objects came from the air force; the ship remained elusive. The search also took advantage of the OCR capabilities, pulling up a page in a report analyzing Japanese air targets that mentioned the carrier. …
Overall, features like the text-based search of scanned documents could prove very valuable in the long-term. Unfortunately, this effort seems a bit more commercialized than similar digitization deals. Improving the information requires you to establish a Footnote account, and there are frequent reminders that the content is “All Free (for a limited time).” US government documents are free from any copyright, so Footnote is free to do with them as it wishes, but it would be nice to think that a service based on government records of a significant American experience would be free indefinitely.