Computerization of the Archivo General de Indias: Strategies and Results

pub76. Computerization of the Archivo General de Indias: Strategies and Results
González, Pedro (9/98, 57pp)
ISBN 1-887334-61-0 $20


Many archives and libraries around the world have embarked upon projects to digitize portions of their holdings. The project of the Archivo General de Indias (AGI) in Seville, Spain, is an important case study both for its size and for its track record. Over the past decade, the AGI has digitized more than eleven million pages of documents relating to Spanish history in the New World. In addition, its system for providing access to the digital documents has been in use for five years. The Archives has thus had to deal with the day-to-day practical problems of operation and longerterm issues such as obsolescence of hardware, software, and storage media.

From the start, the AGI was clear about its rationale for digitizing to “preserve.” Its objective was not to create a preservation copy in digital form to replace originals, but to offer digital surrogates to reduce the handling of originals. Today, about one-third of AGI’s on-site consultations are done electronically, greatly reducing exposure of original documents.

The report illustrates the range of difficult decisions that managers have faced throughout the project. Decisions often had to be made where no precedent existed. And, as always, decisions were bound by time and money, forcing choices that were not always optimal, but realistic.

The experience of the AGI, as described in this report, will be a useful case study for planners facing the myriad technical, organizational, and managerial challenges presented by their own digitizing projects.

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