NARA to offer online search engine

Online Access Prototype offers access to electronic archives

The National Archives and Records Administration is putting the finishing touches on a new online search system that consolidates access to 20 million federal archival records, officials have announced.

The Online Public Access prototype scheduled to debut Dec. 27 is a flagship initiative of the agency’s open government plan.

It offers the ability to search across multiple online resources at NARA, including Archives.gov, the Archival Research Catalog, and Access to Archival Databases.


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“It is a powerful tool that allows you to get into everything with one search,” Pamela Wright, NARA’s chief digital access strategist, said Dec. 16.

The tool features additional results in the event of a spelling or a notation error. Primary documents are pushed to the top of the search results, and filters allow for limiting of results by date, location or topic.

“We’ve been hearing that we need to make the searches easier,” Wright said. “This is a very Google-like search.”

However, in many cases the search will bring up catalog references to a historic document but not the electronic version of the document itself. Many historic archives documents have not yet been digitized.

NARA is encouraging the public to try out the new search tool and offer feedback. The most frequent users of the system are expected to be military veterans and their families, genealogists, historians, and researchers.

Additional data will be added to the online access tool soon, including access to presidential library material and the 1940 census, Wright said.

New features are being added as well, including zoom capabilities and social tagging, she said.

Although the online search tool will not enable searches of NARA’s extensive presence on the Flickr photo-sharing website, all the NARA photos posted on Flickr are also contained in the NARA archives, which are accessible through an online search, Wright said.



About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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