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Archives On-Line and its impact
In 1998 the National Council on Archives published Archives On-Line: the establishment of a UK archival network, which set out a vision of a single online point of access to all archival catalogues in the UK.
The report stated that “..the growing tendency of educational users at all levels from primary schools to higher education to regard the Internet as a preferred tool for resource discovery makes it increasingly vital that detailed information about archival holdings should be accessible in this way; a need that will be felt the more strongly as libraries place the Internet at the disposal of every member of the public.” The report also noted that it was important that the “National Archives Network” should capture as much data as possible: critical mass was required to ensure it became the tool of resource discovery, not just one of many.
The objective of the report was widely welcomed by the professional community, although the report’s preferred model for delivering this service (an independent managed network) was quickly abandoned in favour of an Internet-based service.
What can the ATF do for the electronic National Archives Network?
The vision of a National Archives Network is one of the archives domain’s success stories of the last five years. Enormous strides have been made towards translating into reality what was then just a theoretical possibility. Had the governmental and funding structures of the UK been more supportive of grand projets, it might have been possible to approach the initiative in a more effective way, but the archives domain was in no position to break a cast of thinking which is so long and firmly established.