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A Revolution in Archives, continued from page 9

Archives of Maryland Online provides immediate access to significant documents for
legislative, executive, and judicial staffs; for the citizens of Maryland; and for members of
the general public, including scholars and genealogists. This access is not site-dependent;
persons living anywhere in the world, who are interested in the documentary history of
Maryland, may use this material. Furthermore, they may do so at a level of usage that
would do permanent damage to the sources if directed either to the original material or
to microfilmed copies, and that would overwhelm the capabilities of the Archives and its
staff if all use were restricted to visits to the Hall of Records building or traditional mail
inquiries.

Archives of Maryland Online began in Fiscal Year 1999 with a $100,000 grant from the
Information Technology Fund. One third of the grant purchased needed, equipment and
software for scanning images, storing data, and accessing the Internet. The remainder of '
the funding covered salaries of the project's technical, editorial, and administrative
personnel. Additional funding in subsequent budget years has come from general fund
appropriations ($55,000 annually) and a small number of private contributions.

The enterprise has three main components. The first is a continuation of the
transcription and editing, of the series as originally conceived, with paid and volunteer
editorial staff producing authoritative electronic volumes of edited archival material. A
second component consists of images of all the records encompassed in the Early State
Records project for Maryland, continuing each of the categories outlined by William
Sumner Jenkins down to the present. Finally, there is an innovated comprehensive
website devoted to such themes as plats.net and our new venture, probate.net, which will
be devoted to indexing and accessing all wills, inventories, and other Maryland probate
records. While not all volumes are currently text searchable, most are and the remainder
soon will be, although making any volume searchable is infinitely more time consuming
than producing images. Nor do all volumes have the same high level of editorial
introductions found in the earlier print volumes. Because the site is dynamic and
designed to be constantly improved upon, historical and editorial introductions, including
much-needed glossaries, can be added as funds permit and volunteers step forth.

While it is relatively easy to bring modern records online and to convert images to
searchable text, the older the records are, the more difficult creating searchable text
becomes. One of the most expensive new volumes mounted to date has been Bacon's
Laws of Maryland (1765). Providing readable images from the Early State Records
microfilm was not difficult, once we had found a microfilm scanner that could do the job
well and which we could afford ($70,000 per unit), but because of the condition of the
pages and the typography (double fs, etc.), it became evident very quickly that optical
character recognition would not work well. Instead we hired a part-time typist to
transcribe pages printed off the website which ultimately cost nearly $3,500 in
transcription alone. The result was well worth it but underscores that the most
economical and efficient approach to putting materials on the web does not necessarily
mean "inexpensive."

The seventy-two volumes that comprised the original printed version of the Archives of
Maryland were the first to be placed online. They consist of transcriptions of the earliest
extant records from the colonial period, largely proceedings of the legislature and
executive council but also including some judicial records (both provincial and county),
muster rolls from the Revolutionary War, and the correspondence of Governor Horatio
Sharpe. Since then we have added images of most of the Early State Records series (all

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