August 2013

Request:

Whose decision was it (and at what level) to use a third party organisation to digitise the 1911 census records and make them available online?

Outcome:

Successful

Response:

It was agreed by The National Archives' Management Board in 2006 to contract out the 1911 census digitisation.

All open public records held at The National Archives, Kew, including census records, are available to look at free of charge.  Additionally, readers can take images of the records using their own digital camera for free.  However, because we are aware that that not everyone is able or willing to visit Kew in person, we want to make as many records as possible available on the internet.

Digitising our records however is a hugely expensive task and beyond the resource of The National Archives alone.  For that reason we offer opportunities for third parties to work with us in widening access to the records we hold by digitising them and offering online access.

These partners are required to fully fund the investment in digitisation, cataloguing, indexing, hosting, delivery, technical support and marketing of online services of records held by The National Archives.  In return for this they are allowed to charge to view the records.  Quite simply, in a commercial environment if these partners could not recoup their investment and make a reasonable margin they would not be interested in working with us, and the records would only be available to those individuals who are able to travel to Kew.

Under our statutory obligations for these records, we were funded by the taxpayer to collect the records and make them available physically.  There was no taxpayer funding for digitisation.