Old papers from record office to be scanned and uploaded to web
MILLIONS of Derbyshire history records are to be digitised to make them accessible to web users across the world.
It will mean people will no longer have to travel to Matlock to view documents held at the Derbyshire Record Office.
But people will be charged to access them online.
Bosses at Derbyshire County Council – which holds the records – are searching for a partner organisation to digitise key documents, such as parish registers and family history resources.
That company will then make the information available online through a pay-per-view or subscription service.
The cash-strapped council will receive royalties from the partner organisation once the commercial enterprise is up and running by 2014.
It is not yet known how much the service will cost but free access will remain at the New Street office as well as libraries with a subscription to the website.
Council leader Andrew Lewer said: "Having these records available online will open up access to a worldwide audience and help keep us up-to-date with when, where and how people get the information they need.
"Our record office is already an extremely popular archive and I look forward to these new improvements securing its place as an important historical resource to a global online audience."
Sarah Chubb, archives and local studies manager at Derbyshire Record Office, said the move would benefit the public and the council.
She said: "The kind of family history and parish records that we have are so popular we have people come from as far as America and New Zealand purely to trace their family history.
"By digitising the resources, we'll be making it possible for people to do their research from home.
"It will benefit people even in Derbyshire. Although Matlock is in the centre of the county, there are many people who can't get to us."
Ms Chubb said parish records – which contain about six million names – would be digitised as a priority.
Workhouse registers, electoral registers, land tax returns and police records could follow.
Ms Chubb said: "Hopefully the process will be quite speedy.
"The parish registers are in microfilm form and can be whizzed through a scanning process that digitises them.
"The difficult and time-consuming bit is indexing the information. Someone has to go through every page.
"The company we end up working with will outsource that but we may seek to find local volunteers to check it is all indexed correctly."
She said the microfilms would be kept as long as there was a demand.
All revenue coming into the council as a result of the pay-per-view or subscription service will be reinvested into the record office, which is undergoing a £3.6 million extension. That work is due to be completed in January.
Staff have had to move records into nearby County Hall while the work is carried out.
Ms Chubb said: "The building work is going well and we are on schedule to move back into the building early in the new year."