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Minutes from the May 21st Researcher Meeting

by on May 28, 2010


The minutes from the Researcher Users’ Group meeting on May 21st (PDF) are now available on the Archives.gov page for the Researcher Users Group at the National Archives in the Washington, DC Area.

Please join us for the next meeting on Friday, June 25th, 2010 at Archives I in Washington, DC (room G-24). What topics would you like to see on the agenda? Please let us know here on NARAtions and we’ll pass your ideas along to Diane Dimkoff, Nancy Fortna and the Customer Services Staff or you can contact Nancy directly at nancy.fortna@nara.gov.


Comments

Peggy Reeves June 2, 2010 at 12:59 pm

I was not in attendance at this meeting, but I have read the minutes. We are told that there is an auditing process in place to make sure all of the images are scanned.

My question has to do with the “unprecedented indexing”. Can someone explain this? Thus far, any time the unbelievably incompetent indexing of ancestry is mentioned, NARA’s only defense has been to say that the pension index and others were done by ancestry prior to the partnership agreement with NARA (implying that it is therefore not NARA’s problem). What about now that there IS a partnership agreement? How are we going to find all of those scans of the pension file documents that we want to look at, and be able to see them at Ancestry or the NARA website or anywhere else, if the very same people who gave us all of the useless indexes continue to be in charge of this themselves, recruiting anyone and everyone to do it from home?

The lack of work ethic and lack of accuracy are notorious, yet NARA has contracted with these same people and expects us to trust them. Is the indexing now being done by workers who are supervised by NARA at the “Silver Spring facility”, or is it a case of the fox still watching the henhouse, with ancestry supervising themselves?

If these pension files are being taken out of circulation, the only way we can see them is through those scans, and the only way we can make the scans magically pop up on a screen is if we can find the name on the index. Records indexed incorrectly have disappeared forever.

Rebecca June 3, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Peggy – I’m sorry to hear you weren’t able to attend the meeting. At the meeting NARA staff explained that, through its partnership agreements, NARA has been able to provide online access to millions of records which otherwise would only have been available to researchers conducting research in one of our facilities.

Under the partnership agreements with NARA, Ancestry and Footnote are required to conduct thorough quality control auditing of metadata, both that captured at camera and that created post-imaging. They are further required to correct any problems with metadata that are discovered during auditing.

The digitized records on Ancestry and Footnote are only one research resource. Researchers can also look at microfilmed copies of indexes and records. For preservation reasons, NARA generally does not provide access to original records when surrogates are available on microfilm or online. However, NARA staff will check the original records for a researcher if there is a reason to believe that records are missing from a microfilm publication or a partner’s web site or if microfilmed or scanned records are illegible.

-Rebecca

Peggy Reeves June 4, 2010 at 7:28 am

Thanks, but you didn’t answer my question. If the partnership agreement requires ancestry and footnote to conduct “quality control” of data captured at camera and data created post-imaging, then who at NARA is in charge of enforcing that part of the contract and checking the indexing, which I believe is done post-camera? From what I see at the FamilySearch site, they are still recruiting any and every warm body they can get to do the indexing, and quality doesn’t matter in the least as long as NARA keeps praising them for making more records available online.

It seems to me that NARA is not checking the indexing at all, and that is why there is no need for the subscription services to do any proofreading or use any common sense whatsoever when doing the indexing. That is how we get “Sam’l” indexed as “Sanil”, and entire counties and townships spelled wrong so that nothing comes up when we search under the correct spellings. We are told that we, as researchers, and those who pay for subscriptions, are responsible for correcting these databases by compiling a list of corrections to turn in. No, NARA is responsible for enforcement of their contracts and to see that proofreading is done in the first place. Let’s be clear that people who are paying a company for a product do not then volunteer to do the company’s work for them. That is ridiculous!

It is a disservice to the taxpayers for NARA to say “oh, well” and ignore this problem, while the subscription services continue to take the taxpayers’ money for databases that they say are complete but are not. If the subscription services are not penalized in any way for poor work and deceptive advertising, then it will surely continue and multiply.

Rebecca June 8, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Peggy, thank you for sharing your concerns about digitization with us. We share your interest in having good digital products available online for our researchers. Both NARA and its partners are involved in various aspects of the quality control of digitization projects.

Neither NARA nor the partners are asking researchers to compile lists of corrections. However, at one of the researcher meetings, some researchers asked for the ability to report partner website problems directly to NARA, so we have made that option available to them.

We have been talking with our partners about your concerns and the issues about specific digitized records which you have raised. We want to thank you again for raising these issues.

- Rebecca

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