Saturday, 6 September 2008

18th & 19th Century Hansard: The Sublime & the Ridiculous

After praising the UK government for the innovative, open and transparent way it has digitised the 19th century Hansard, Bibliothekia was gob smacked at the utterly ridiculous and restrictive way the 18th century parliamentary proceedings have been digitised.

It is fair enough that the contemporary Hansard is located on the publications section of UK Parliament web site. The UK Hansard is even available on the UK Parliament web site about three hours after debates. But why is the record of the 18th century parliamentary proceedings locked away on the 18th Century Official Parliamentary Publications Portal and only accessible to "the higher and further education academic communities within the UK and other selected institutions"? There is not even an explanation as to why this is so.

Maybe some one is worried that we might stumble across the parliamentary proceedings dealing with the ridiculous War of Jenkins Ear. Not since the Garden of Gethsemane has there been so much fuss over an ear. Or maybe someone is worried we might find out too much about the shenanigans that went on during the South Sea Bubble. I can not think of one good reason why this material is not freely available to researchers everywhere.

At last month's VALA General Meeting, Mal Booth from the Australian War Memorial gave an excellent talk that outlined what the AWM is doing in the way of digitisation. Mal also warned against institutions signing away their digital rights to private organisations and then finding their digital content is locked away from their patrons. I hope this is not why the 18th century UK parliamentary proceedings have being locked away.

To the BOPCRIS Digitisation Project people at the University of Southampton - WAKE UP and take a look at what, and how, the people at Millbank Systems do things.

1 comment:

Polyxena said...

It could well be something to do with commercialization and who pays. I haven't tried searching for English BDMs for a while: you end up on Ancestry.com. Fortunately my library subscribes to this so I know where to look. It's a partnership and enabled the project to be completed for sure. But I don't want to subscribe to Ancestry.com.

Compared to this approach, Scotland's People is such a great source. You pay, but you pay for what you search as you do with Victoria's BDMs which must be amongst the best such service in the world.