Something historically reliable on the Web

February 10th, 2007 at 12:00 am

Definitely one for the history books. A new start-up is providing millions of images of original source documents for users to view and annotate. might start drawing out historians and students from the musky and dusty library archive soon. That is, if the site is able to maintain and improve its database of sources.

Footnote, however, is not just about finding the images online. They have installed a variety of tools which allow members to interact with and enhance what they find. The site provides tools for annotation of documents. Any member can also write their comments, ideas or opinions on any document or photo. It's not just a historical database but a social network community as well. Members can organize their finding and easily share them to other people who belong to their own network. Members can also create their own pages where they could write all sorts of stuff. These member pages also made sharing information, stories, anecdotes, ideas, etc easier and faster. Footnote also allows people to upload their own original source images.

The user interface is friendly enough. The site uses Adobe Flash Player, easy enough to use or navigate. A blogging atmosphere is heavily felt in member pages. Search can be conducted by titles or by entering key words or phrases in the task bar.

There are two kinds of memberships when you register at Footnote. The basic membership is free. Meanwhile, the site offers a subscription plan where you can avail of a $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year subscription plan. Basic members can only search or browse the indexes of the website. They can only view the documents in thumbnail size, nor are they permitted to download the documents. Footnote, however, allowed users with basic memberships to view, save, and print any of the “American Milestone Documents” and the “Pennsylvania Archives” documents. Nevertheless, members with free accounts can create their own member page where they can talk about histories, post their own original source documents, collaborate with colleagues or use it as an online notebook.

A recent partnership agreement with the National Archives made Footnote has made the site more credible and reliable in the eyes of historians, libraries and students.

So far the site is doing well in terms of updating its database and source materials. Recent news in its blog section featured more titles being added into their list of source documents. According to the post, these new additions can be accessed for free. I personally hope that they provide more free materials available to those that have free membership accounts, especially if the materials have already been published somewhere else in the Web.

I find the whole concept of the site very interesting and it really might become very successful if they continue to get more historical institutions, private collectors and even museums as partners.