Prompted by an item on Dick Eastman’s blog this morning, I checked out the new National Archives sponsored Online Public Access site posted at Archives.gov.
First, the following press release was posted December 27 at Archives.gov:
National Archives Launches Online Public Access System
Washington, DC…The National Archives and Records Administration’s new Online Public Access prototype is being made available to the public today. Please try it out [http://www.archives.gov/research/search].
The National Archives’ flagship initiative in our Open Government plan is to develop online services to meet the 21st century needs of the public. It is also a key component of our agency’s Transformation Plan, to be customer-focused and ensuring our nation’s heritage is accessible to all.
The Online Public Access prototype is the public portal that provides access to digitized records, and information about our records. It also provides a centralized means of searching multiple National Archives resources at once. Currently, researchers perform separate searches in the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) for catalog descriptions, histories and biographies; Access to Archival Databases (AAD) for electronic records; and Archives.gov. The new interface illustrates a streamlined search experience for users, searching across all of these resources.
The prototype currently contains all of the data from ARC, and seven series from AAD, containing 10.9 million permanent electronic records. Additionally, the prototype provides access to one million electronic records currently in the Electronic Records Archives, which are not available elsewhere online.
The National Archives will add additional functionality in the coming year, including an image zooming feature that will enable users to zoom and pan our online holdings, and social sharing through Facebook, Twitter, and other sites.
The National Archives is asking the public for feedback to ensure a user-friendly search and display. Please send your comments and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Searching the new OPA site is dead-simple. Put your search criteria, and hit GO – or you can do advanced searches, searching across all records or by selecting a specific source from the following list:
- Archival Descriptions
- Authority Records
- Archival Descriptions with Digital Objects
- Selected Archival Data Records
You can then narrow your search by record type, date, etc.
My first search was for the “Meitzler” surname alone. I got a total of 9 hits. Four of these were for enlistment records from the late 1800s through the 1930s. One was for the description and link to GenealogyBlog.com found on the Genealogy page of Archives.gov.
Wanting to come up with a more detailed example, I searched on the name “Canfield.” I got a total of 622 results, 335 for online holdings, 230 with description only, 38 at archives.gov, and 19 from NARA’s Authority Records. Following is a screen shot (in 2 shots) of the initial search page. By clicking on the View All … link within each category, the user can see all the records within that category. Click on the images below to see them at the OPA site itself.
Searching on the term, Pierce County, I came up with 1,861 hits.
Keep in mind that you can search for all kinds of things here, not just names, and places. Based upon my initial searches at the OPA site, I know that I’ll be using it a lot.