Media release: Wednesday, 2 October 2013
South Australian records in the National Archives' collection are becoming easier to find for everyone, with the help of volunteer transcribers within the community.
'The sheer volume of records in our collection - around 40 million – meant that in the past we weren't able to list them all on our RecordSearch database as soon as we received them,' said Nick Gleghorn, manager of the South Australian office of the National Archives. 'We need the community's help to make our collection easier to search. So we're hoping more volunteers will join the team to make South Australian records more easily findable.'
Lists of records which government agencies have transferred to the National Archives (known as consignment lists) are the subject of the project. They list items which the National Archives holds in custody but which haven't yet been entered into the online database RecordSearch.
'Through one of the National Archives' websites 'the Hive' – transcribe.naa.gov.au – volunteers can work from home to search the consignment lists and choose those of particular interest to them,' said Nick. 'Transcribing the lists enables the items within them to be searched more accurately and we are currently loading our first consignment of 1700 British migrant selection documents onto RecordSearch.'
The documents have been read by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to provide a starting point for transcription. But the OCR process is not perfect so, by correcting the lists, volunteers help ensure the documents are accurate and searchable.
'The lists are categorised as easy, medium and hard depending on the accuracy of the initial OCR reading of the document,' said Nick. 'We find that some volunteers begin with the easy lists and move on to the harder lists when they'd like more of a challenge.'
The consignment lists include topics such as letters from the translating room of the Australian Federal Police in Adelaide; citizenship files from the Department of Immigration; original plans for construction projects such as the Port Augusta-Woomera pipeline, the ABC Studios at Collinswood and Adelaide Airport; copies of drawings and maps relating to Maralinga submitted to the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia; National Service files; and scripts of plays produced by the ABC in South Australia.
'Many researchers volunteer to transcribe lists of topics they have a particular interest in,' said Nick Gleghorn. 'This provides a double benefit for them. They are able to see what types of records are available and be the first to order them. They can also build up points to receive free copies of archival files for their research. Our HIVE community not only helps make records more accessible, but also provides feedback about the sorts of projects that are of greatest interest to researchers.'