World Archives Project: The Life of a Project

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How do we decide what projects to key? Can we key that project? Why are we keying only those fields? When will that project be released on Ancestry? We often hear these and similar questions from contributors curious about the processes behind the scenes at the World Archives Project so I thought we should take you on a tour.

We have a content acquisition team that researches record collections and then seeks out the appropriate parties to see if we can acquire the content. During the acquisition process decisions are made regarding what information will be keyed - this is decided based on what we want to be able to search and what the owner of the records would like. It is also during this time that there may be discussions regarding timelines for completing the index and if the index could be free on the site, hence whether it would be available to be keyed through the World Archives Project. Once we have acquired the content it starts its journey through the digitization process, then on to indexing, followed by post-production work and then the index will be available on Ancestry.

If the records have not been digitized we will need to make arrangements for them to be scanned. We have a few offices, around the world, where projects are digitized. There are a variety of methods we use to digitize the records and which method we use depends on items such as the state of the records and what format they are in. Some of you may remember the Gretna Green, Scotland, Marriage Registers, 1794-1895, project where there were often small pieces of crumpled looking paper that the records were on. These pieces of paper had to be worked with to flatten them out before we could use a camera to take pictures of the records to digitize them. Many books are put through a multi-page scanner, which feeds them through at an amazing rate; microfilm is also scanned at a pretty quick pace. As we digitize the records we also process them to get the best quality image. We have been asked if a project can be rescanned but often it is the state of the original records that is poor and we have already processed the images to make them easier to read.

As the project is being digitized, or after we receive the digitized records, we add it to our indexing calendar. Our pre-production team works with the content managers to determine how the records should be indexed. This process includes looking for different form types, determining what information is available on the records, what the instructions should be for keying each field, and setting up the project. We review the projects at various stages during the pre-production process, including a testing period with final adjustments before the project is published in the World Archives Project. After a project is released you, contributors to the World Archives Project, key and review the information on the records. If you have questions as you key we answer them and often clarify the field helps or add instructions to make the keying process easier. Depending on the size of the project it can take anywhere from a week to years for the project to be keyed and reviewed. As records are completed they go through a post-production process, including quality checks, to determine the overall quality of the index. There have been a few occasions where we have found errors in keying and have released the image sets back to the community to be keyed again. The main question we receive about this process is, “Why does it take so long for records to get online?” And the main reason it takes so long is that it isn’t easy to determine when a project will be completed and in turn scheduled for post-production work. After the records have been through the post-production process they are ready to go online.

Congratulations! The project is online and ready to be searched. Without the efforts of those bringing the records to you and your efforts in keying the index wouldn’t be complete and the records wouldn’t be as easy to locate. Thank you!


World Archives Project: What are the steps a project goes through before it is Live?