Historical Documents and Social Networking
The image shown left is a check written for seven million two thousand dollars for the purchase of the territory of Alaska in August 1, 1868. It is one of thousands of historical documents available in Footnote, a database recently acquired by the New York Public Library. Footnote is doing some interesting work in partnership with NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) digitizing and indexing many of their collections, making them searchable and available online. The collections are diverse and include the Constitutional Convention Records, Investigative Case Files of the Bureau of Investigation 1908-1922 (presently known as the FBI), the Pennsylvania Archives and Project Blue Book, UFO investigations from 1947-1969, to name a few. This is an excellent database for primary source documents.
An interesting dimension to this project is Footnote's use of social networking to enrich the collections. Users are allowed to upload their own content, whether photographs, newspaper articles or other kinds of historical documents. They can also annotate or describe documents within the database or create story pages on items they find particularly meaningful or interesting.
They are are still working out their search functions and I have yet to understand their relevancy ranking. Still, the more you work with the database the more you will find. In fact the collection is growing everyday. With all that it has to offer, I think Footnote is beneficial to genealogist and to historians alike.