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National Archives Creates Plan for Online Access to Founding Fathers Papers

[I found this interesting news on the wonderful blog: BeSpacific -Erika]

Press Release
(from archives.gov)

May 7, 2008

Washington, DC. . . On Tuesday, May 6, 2008, Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein submitted a report, entitled The Founders Online, to the Committees on Appropriations of the U.S. Congress. This report is the National Archives response to concerns raised by the Committees that the complete papers of America’s Founding Fathers are not available online. The Founders Online is a plan for providing online access, within a reasonable timeframe, to researchers, students and the general public. The report is available electronically at the National Archives website: http://www.archives.gov/nhprc/publications.

In announcing the completion of the report, Professor Weinstein said, “We feel this plan would provide scholars and the public access to the best available versions of the complete papers; it would also protect the longstanding interests of the publishers and host organizations which along with the Federal government have invested great resources in the past four decades. Most importantly, it would build a monument to the Founders of our nation in their own words.”

The National Archives received suggestions from the editors of the papers of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington, university publishers, and others in crafting a blueprint for providing access to the already completed print editions and the raw materials for the editions to come. If carried out, the plan ensures that interested readers worldwide can see the work in progress with the already complete editions accompanied by transcriptions of the papers yet to be published. To hasten the transition process, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission plans to invest $250,000 as a demonstration pilot project.

The plan outlines three basic steps that remain:

* Digitizing the existing 217 volumes and publishing the Papers on a single website to allow for research and inquiry across America’s Founding Era collections;

* Transcribing and otherwise preparing for publishing on the web the remaining papers (approximately 90,000 documents) and replacing these raw materials with authoritative annotated versions as these are completed; and

* Creating an independent oversight process to ensure that rigorous performance goals are established and met by the parties carrying out all aspects of the work.

New website Omeka helps in publishing online collections

"Omeka" is a newly launched website geared towards "cultural institutions, enthusiasts, and educators." Developed by The Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS), Omeka’s purpose is to provide a free online display platform that museums, historical societies, scholars, libraries, etc. can use for publishing collections and exhibitions online. Inside Higher Ed today reports that Omeka allows users to curate items professionally by offering easy creation of online collections.
Features that Omeka offers for online collections include:
– A Dublin Core metadata structure and standards-based design that is fully accessible and interoperable
– Professional-looking exhibit sites that showcase collections without hiring outside designers
– Theme-switching for changing the look and feel of an exhibit in a few clicks
– Plug-ins for geolocation, bi-lingual sites, and  other possibilities
– Web 2.0 Technologies, including tagging, blogging and syndicating.
The beta code for Omeka is being made available to the general public today. The  developers envision itas a relatively simple way to produce a rich, well-designed site that meets the common needs of librarians and archivists. 
The Omeka site has a showcase of several current projects.  One example of a site that has used an earlier version of  Omeka is the April 16 Archive, created by Virginia Tech after last year’s shooting attacks.  Another project is collecting the stories and digital record of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.