Tuesday Two.Oh! is not meant as an endorsement, but as an exploration of the tools that are out there. Click at your own risk. 🙂
Today on Tuesday Two.Oh! we’re going to take a look at a tool that gives the user access to scanned copies of original historical documents. Many institutions create digital libraries of their own collection, but today’s tool strives to bring them all together in one location. Searchable by database, these documents are easily manipulated to change contrast. The documents can also be annotated, depending on the account you choose. Let’s take a look at Footnote:
From the site: “Footnote.com is more than just an online repository for original documents. In addition to hosting millions of records, Footnote supports a community of people who are passionate about a variety of topics relating to history. See what people are doing on Footnote right now with Member Discoveries. Footnote.com creates an environment where members can share their content and insights, ranging from major historical events to personal accounts and family histories. Footnote.com, together with its members, is revealing a side of history that few have seen before.”
Mixing a social network with a online database of original documents, Footnote strives to be the future hub of all historical (not to mention, genealogical) research. And, for the first time on Tuesday Two.Oh I feel that a brief overview of the site will not do it justice. Footnote tends to be nuanced and detailed, and I am sure that a free account (like the one I have signed up for) only scratches the surface of the capabilities of this site. With that in mind, I suggest that you take a look at their online tour:
Signing up for a Footnote Account is a relatively easy process, resulting in an approval email for account varification. Once you have created a presence on the site, easy account access will appear at the top of every Footnote page at which you look. It will give you access to your gallery (items you have saved), your account, and an upload link that you can use to contribute to the site.
You can search the site without creating an account, and the searchability increases with the level of your account, but there is access to documents that are free. You can conduct census searches and other inquiries and find usable results. But, as with anything, the more you’re willing to spend, the better (or, at least more robust) the content.
Searching is relatively easy using Footnote. You will have a couple of options, the most prominent being a regular keyword search, a name search, and a browsing by subject option. The front page will look like this (though, Footnote is currently redoing their homepage, and the screen shots I have made might look different from what you will see when you go to the site).
The people search option is interesting. I have a very unique maiden name, and when I searched it using Footnote, I was given people with the same name located within the same state from which my family hails. I think that with more common names, like Brown, you will have to use more of a detailed search to find people. But the feature is interesting, nonetheless.
On the home page, there is a timeline bar that you can use to browse by moment in history. Footnote is an essentially American site, so for now the topics covered range from the 18th century to the present.
Clicking on the topic will bring you to an overview page, which will be a detailed collection of documents on the topic.
One of the things I found interesting about Footnote were the help pop-ups that appear to point out ways to more effectively search the site.
Once you have chosen a browsing topic or conducted a search, you will be looking at the results screen which will have previews of the documents that have resulted in your search.
From there, you can start looking at your document. By clicking on the document, you’ll open another window in which the document will appear. This window will have navigation of its own, allowing you to change the brightness of the document, and otherwise edit or annotate (again, depending on the level of your account).
And, the document itself:
With each document, you will have a side bar that will tell you its origins. This will help with citation and credibility circumstances.
Account options vary, but are not overly expensive.
Though, it is being marketed as something akin to an institutional database (I would be very interested to know of those of you out there who might have access to this through your job or university):
If you’re interested, Footnote does proudly display it’s collaborators.
In closing, I really do think I’ve only be able to scratch the surface of this site. In saying so, I also mean that I found myself mildly frustrated, wishing I could try out some of the higher level options. Having done historical research in my own academic career, I think that the potential use of this site for students is without end. I know that having access to digitized archives can only enrich an experience.
I am going to keep my eye on this one… and perhaps inquire about institutional access.
As always, questions and comments are encouraged and welcomed!