The National Archives just launched the beta version of its new catalog to search and view their records.
This happens to be a project I have been working on myself, in the one day per week I do IT projects for archives. I have been managing the migration of 14 million scans from the new system to the old, and consulting on building the new presentation which will have 30 million scans by the official launch. The beta already provides access to millions of new scans.
Try the new presentation
To try the new presentation, take the following steps:
- Log in to your account. If you don’t have a free account yet, you can create one on that page.
- In the account settings, check the option to use the new presentation for archives, cryptically called “use new chain access”. If you don’t see your account settings, click “My account” in the top navigation bar.
- Go to the archives search page. You can now see all the finding aids and filter for the ones that contain digital objects if you want to do online research.
What’s new – scans
To view the millions of new scans, first activate the new presentation in your account as described above and then go to the Research section. In the search results, you can filter for archives with digital records to see what else is available.
Here are some of my favorite record groups that have new scans:
- Dutch East India Company
- Second West India Company
- Military Muster Rolls of the Army
- Death Duties files for South-Holland
- Court of Holland court files
- Charters of convents in South-Holland
What’s new – functionality
The way you can search and view the records has been changed:
- The new viewer makes it easier to browse between different scans in the same register. You can zoom in or out and see the whole volume, swipe to go to the next page on devices with touch screens, and quickly navigate between the pages. The viewer is meant to more closely resemble the browsing experience in the physical books.
- The search results can now be filtered for different aspects, including whether digital files are available.
- The finding aids now have the hierarchy displayed on the left, to more easily understand the context of the descriptions you’re viewing and to easily navigate within the finding aids.
The new presentation is not quite finished. There are some known bugs and missing features, including the presentation and editing of transcriptions.
If you have suggestions for improvement or encounter any bugs, please use the Feedback button on the right side of the screen at the National Archives website.