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Project HistoryAn act of the General Assembly in 1882 directed the Maryland Historical Society to collect and prepare for publication “... all the records, archives and ancient documents of the province and State of Maryland of any date prior to the acknowledgment of the independence of the United States by Great Britain...”. The legislature had two objectives: to prevent further loss of the state's historical documents and to make the records available to scholars and investigators who did not have access to the original records. The records were collected "...from various rooms of the State House, from disused offices, cupboards, underneath the staircases, from the lofts, the cellars, and even the stairway leading to the dome...". Where gaps existed, they were filled wherever possible with copies obtained from the Public Records Office in London. [The preface to volume 1 contains a more complete account of the origins of the series.]
The legislature appointed a three-person committee to appraise the work and hire an editor. The committee selected Dr. William Hand Browne to be the first editor of the series; first year funding amounted to $2,000. Transcription work began immediately and the first volume was delivered to the General Assembly in 1883. Subsequent volumes were submitted, every year or two, for the next eighty-nine years. Dr. Browne died in 1912, but a succession of respected editors capably filled his shoes. The last volume in the original series, number seventy-two, was published in 1972.
In 1981, with the endorsement and cooperation of the Maryland Historical Society, the General Assembly transferred responsibility for the Archives of Maryland to the State Archives. By 1990, income from a microfilm edition of the series prepared by the State Archives and prudent management by the State Treasurer's office of the Archives of Maryland fund had produced sufficient funds to publish the first volume in a new series of the Archives of Maryland. That volume, begun in 1988 and published in 1990, constitutes the first comprehensive list of Maryland's elected officials (covering state and national offices) from 1632 to 1990.
In the summer of 1999, under the direction of Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse, the State Archivist, work on the Archives of Maryland series resumed. Recognizing the technical advances of the preceding several years, which make it possible to distribute information more widely than ever before, the Archives decided to create an on-line resource for Maryland history that continues the records series established in volumes one through seventy-two, incorporates the documents filmed by the Early State Records project, and adds new series as technology and resources permit. The ultimate goal is to provide, whenever possible, three levels of documentation for each volume: searchable copies (using OCR or keyboard), typeset copies (such as the original volumes of the Archives of Maryland), and manuscript originals. The project also supplies additional intellectual enhancements through new prefaces that provide historical context, links to related documents, and search capabilities.
For a brief example of the multi-level access provided by the Archives of Maryland Online, please visit George Washington Letter.
Technical DetailsMaterial from previously published works are disbound by the Conservation department of the Maryland State Archives, and scanned at 300dpi on desktop scanners. Original records are scanned from microfilm copies on a Wicks and Wilson 4100 scanner. All image files are saved as Group IV Tiff images. These images are converted to text with Abby Finereader 5.0.
After the converted files are saved into the appropriate directory structure, HTML files are generated via a PERL script written at the Archives.
GIF images are created for any TIFF image that has not been converted to text. All files are moved to an internal storage array and, nightly, moved to the public site for use. The HTDIG search engine is installed on a Linux server to index the site. This is done automatically once per week.
Brief Project Description: Archives of Maryland Online.The Archives of Maryland Online project provides on-line access to the constitutional, legal, legislative, and administrative basis of Maryland government. A grant was received from the Information Technology Fund to apply innovative technology to the delivery of information vital to the functioning of State government.
The Archives is creating an on-line resource for legal research that encompasses the session laws, proceedings of the General Assembly, Constitutional Conventions, historical editions of the annotated code, and ultimately all court decisions as they relate to constitutional issues. Such a resource is essential to State government, the legal community, and our citizens who seek to understand the development of Maryland's constitutional and legal precedents. By accessing this information on line at the Maryland State Archives web site, users are able to research quickly and easily such topics as: legislative intent, legal precedents, the full text of any law, and the particulars of any constitutional issue as it was written into law and by successive Maryland Constitutions from 1776 onward.
See also A REVOLUTION IN ARCHIVES, an article appearing in Uncommon Sense about the Archives of Maryland Online.
last updated: 8/17/2004
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