At the genealogy media event Ancestry.com sponsored last week, our group got a virtual glimpse at the Silver Spring, Md., digitization facility where Ancestry.com scans records from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
Of its 9 billion textual records, 1 percent of the holdings in NARAs Washington, DC, research center have been digitized, according to Ancestry.com’s Todd Jensen.
In a quest to “go where the records are,” Ancestry.com has opened 15 remote scanning operations in the in the United States. Jensen, who oversees the digitization efforts, emphasized the seriousness of the undertaking. Though he didnt get into specifics, he said costs for the process and insurance are as expensive “as you might imagine.”
Pages and pages of government directives regulate the removal of records from NARAs building:
- A NARA monitorsubsidized by Ancestry.commust accompany the documents at all times. When employees go on break or leave for the day, the records are locked in a secure room.
- The transport vehicle must have a full gas tank and a specially trained driver who follows approved routes (avoiding highways and other roads that permit vehicles carrying hazardous materials) for the 10-mile trip from NARA to the scanning facility.
- The documents must be inside when transitioned between the vehicle and the facility.
- The scanning and secure storage rooms cant be in a basement or on the top floors of a building.
- The facility must have approved surfaces. Some paints, rubbers, carpets and other materials can off-gass, or emit vapors that harm documents.
- The scanning facility must duplicate the conditions of a NARA reading room. Ink pens are banned, for example, and the temperature and humidity are carefully controlled.
- NARAs security director reviewed the scanning facility and required some changes, such as hardening the entry points.