Thursday, May 12, 2011

From NGS: Preserving War of 1812 Pensions

FGS Preserving War of 1812 Pensions Sounds a bit like extending the pensions of some really, really old people: “Preserving War of 1812 Pensions.”

Actually, it is a project to digitize the War of 1812 pension applications held by the National Archives. There are 7.2 million pages of documents in 180,000 pension files. None are available on microfilm. Soon, all will be available to anyone with access to the Internet.

Curt Witcher, an FGS  VP, and Brian Hansen, General Manager at Ancestry.com’s Footnote.com, spoke briefly about the project at yesterday’s FGS Luncheon and gave attendees a fundraising brochure. A donation of $25 to the project will digitize 50 images.

Images from the project  have already started showing up on Footnote.com. Access the images for free at http://go.footnote.com/1812pensions. You won’t have to give a credit card and you won’t have to register.

So far there are 1,438 images online. That leaves a measly 7,198,562 to go. Witcher encouraged stepping up fundraising efforts so that the publication rate can be sped up.

I’m a little unclear about some details of how this partnership works among NARA, FGS, and Footnote.com (an Ancestry.com website). Here’s what I understand:

  • According to the project brochures, “FGS…lead[s] fundraising efforts.”
  • Ancestry.com’s Footnote.com will host the index and images on their servers where anyone can access them for free.
  • The brochure explains the RPAC committee of NGS and FGS, but doesn’t state its role in this project, if any. Is this name-dropping? Or is RPAC involved?
  • The brochure mentions the Malcolm H. Stern-NARA Gift Fund. Name-dropping again? Is the 1812 fund the same as the Stern fund?
  • When the brochure states that indexing and imaging one page costs $0.50, is that at cost? Does Ancestry.com make money on each image? Does it lose money on each?
  • According to the Footnote.com blog, they are “providing a dollar-for-dollar match of each donation through a provision of services.” What is “provision of services”? Is that the provision of a host website?
  • Witcher announced that the dollar-for-dollar match is up to $1.5 million. If the match is “provision of services,” what does that mean about costs beyond $3 million? Won’t 7.2 million images cost $3.6 million?

Short timeline about the War of 1812Witcher asked us to take some project brochures home and share them in our societies. I figure you, my readers, are the highest society I hang out with, so it seemed right to share with you.

Click on one of the brochure images to see a PDF copy of the entire brochure.

For more information, consult:

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