What is Footnote.com and what does the company do?
Footnote.com is a subscription-based website that is enhancing the way people access and interact with history. Featuring over 66 million images of original documents, Footnote.com is bringing the treasures in our nation’s archives and libraries to the internet. With an active community contributing their own content and insights to the documents on Footnote.com, a new face of history is revealed and available to the general populace.
How long have you been with the company and what are your responsibilities?
I joined iArchives as COO in 1998 and became the CEO in 2000. In 1998 iArchives was a service business focused on digitizing documents that included trucker forms, medical forms and legal records. As we evolved, we began working with institutions and university libraries digitizing their primary source content. In 2006 I hired a highly skilled team with extensive experience in the consumer internet subscription business to create a website where historical content would be available to everyone through the internet.
Footnote.com was the first to form an exclusive partnership with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to digitize their records, how did you reach that deal and what benefits did it provide to both you and NARA?NARA was a logical partner for Footnote as they are the nation's record keeper. Historically NARA had focused on preserving the nations’ records and providing onsite access to them. When we approached NARA about the possibility of providing internet access to their records they were very excited and wanted to explore how we could move forward in a mutually beneficial way. We proposed a relationship whereby NARA would provide Footnote with a reduced price to access their historical collections, and in return Footnote would provide the digitization and indexing services for free. This has been a wonderful collaborative effort between NARA and Footnote.com to bring our nation’s history to the masses via the internet.
What technologies do you use to make these records available online and interactive for users?
We have a tremendously talented team at Footnote that has used open source technology enabling users to search and interact with primary source material as never before. One of the best features on our site is the image viewer. Considered on of the best on the web, our Flash viewer allows people to not only view these historical documents, but to also annotate, comment and connect documents. It is important to note, however, that the original source images are never changed or altered in any way.
How long does it take to digitize a collection of records and what is the process to digitize a collection?
We have developed our own unique technology that allows us to digitize almost any kind of primary source document from microfilm, microfiche or paper.
The document is scanned first and then metadata is added to the collection. The metadata collected is based upon the nature of the collection as well as how users will search and/or browse the material. Essentially, when we scan and digitize the images, we want to make sure our users can find them again.
How many records are currently available on the Footnote.com Web site?
We currently have over 67 million records on our site and add approximately 2 million new images each month.
How many records do you add to the site on a daily, monthly and yearly basis?
We have a counter on our home page that shows the document count on a real-time basis.
This is an industry that seems to be growing by leaps and bounds every year, what trends are you seeing in the industry?
More and more people are showing an interest in online history and genealogy. Baby Boomers are the primary audience who are entering a time of their life where they can spend more time with their hobbies and interests. With such a large audience, we anticipate this industry is in its infancy and will continue to grow larger and demographically younger in the coming years.
There are a lot of companies that provide similar services in this industry, how does Footnote.com differentiate itself from these competitors?
The primary differentiator of Footnote is we provide unique content that is not available on other internet sites. We also invite our visitors to interact with history and with each other. There is a social layer on our site that enhances the historical documents.
Is historical and genealogical research as popular worldwide as it seems to be in the United States?
Actually, the UK has a much higher interest level per capita in genealogy and history compared to the US. Most other technologically developed nations are seeing similar growth and interest in family history.
How has social media and the Internet changed the way historical research and genealogical work is done globally?
I believe the most significant change has occurred as a result of companies like Footnote making documents available on the Internet. Social media facilitates communication and collaboration with individuals, but access to more primary source documents is really the major unmet need. People need affordable access to more and more primary source materials.
What other types of digitization work and or services does Footnote.com provide?
Footnote is unique as it provides a complete solution for institutions and individuals to digitize and provide internet access to their material.
Footnote has developed industry leading technology and processes that enable us to digitize almost any document from a newspaper page to a marriage certificate and make it fully searchable over the Internet.