I listened to a portion of the National Archives and Records Administration’s Virtual Genealogy Fair this week. It was terrific. For me, there were two big discoveries and a revelation.
First the discoveries:
- The talks, slides and handouts from this year’s Virtual Fair — as well as those from the last three Fairs–are freely available online. So if you missed a talk, or just want to revisit one, it’s there for you. (That took the pressure off to sit at my desk all day!) Click to access the 2015 Fair. Here’s 2014. And 2013.
- The National Archives has a new website, History Hub, in beta mode. I think it’s really promising. (More on that in a moment.)
I’ll share the revelation with you next week.
I don’t know about you, but I have always found the NARA website to be challenging to navigate. I know there’s info there (and am I’m so glad I figured out how to find my ancestors’ Civil War pension files), but tracking it down can take some effort.
The talk called Innovative Online Resources and Tools to Help with Your Genealogical Research provided some insight into how to navigate the NARA website. It’s worth checking out the talk if you find the NARA website challenging. In the first part of the talk, presenter Sarah Swanson, pointed out ways to navigate the site, and she revealed the many aspects of the site I had overlooked (including a link to the NARA YouTube channel and 16 NARA special-interest blogs!). I’m going to go through the session slides again and familiarize myself with how I can access the vast online holdings. It will also help me plan a research trip to NARA in Washington, DC, perhaps next year.
The second of the talk was about History Hub, which is described as “A support community managed by the National Archives for researchers, citizen historians, archival professionals, and open government advocates.” The speaker, Kelly Osborn from NARA’s Innovation Office, likened History Hub to the Apple Support Community. If you’ve ever had a problem on an Apple product and googled it, you’ve probably ended up in the Apple Support Community where your question might be answered by an Apple employee or by a fellow Apple user. You might have asked the question yourself or got you needed by reading the answers to someone else’s question. That’s what the National Archives wants to do with History Hub–it’ll be a place where people can get their genealogy questions answered and learn from others’ questions. I think it’s an amazing idea.
Of course, History Hub is the kind of site that will only get better with age as more people use it and offer their expertise. The idea that I can tap into the knowledge of a subject matter expert from the National Archives–as well as other knowledgeable people–is really exciting. The site is searchable and has discussion boards, blogs and community pages. I think it has huge potential and I think it’s really great that the National Archives is embracing innovation this way.
By the way, if you’re getting an error message when you click on the History Hub link, try it in another browser. I found that the link works in Safari and Chrome, but not in Firefox, at least on my computer.