For more than three years the Danish National Archives has been working to digitize a vast quantity of historic records from the Danish colonial era. The digitization project started in 2013 with the aim to mark the occasion of the centennial in 2017 of the sale of the three West Indian islands to the USA. The Danish National Archives has digitally scanned the equivalent of 1.200 meters of shelf space of historic records, which amounts to more than five million digital images. Many of these records are included on UNESCO’S World Heritage List.
The Danish National Archives’ project is targeted at a broad audience. On the one hand it communicates the history of the colony through articles and digital timelines, while on the other hand it starts to make the handwritten records easier to search for and read. More than 150 volunteers from Denmark, the former Danish West Indies (now the US Virgin Islands) and other countries have spent thousands of hours on electronic transcription of the records in order to allow the largest possible audience to find and read them. At the same time the volunteers have also been tagging records, which are particularly useful for genealogical research, to make it possible to search them for names of people and places.
The volunteers will continue their work throughout 2017 and when the project closes at the end of 2017 we expect that they will have transcribed at least 30.000 pages.
The celebration of the Danish National Archives’ project took place at a conference at the archive on March 1st 2017 where the Danish Minister for Culture, Mette Bock, officially opened the access to the digitized records.
The digitization project was rendered possible by a donation from the A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation for General Purposes in cooperation with the Danish Ministry of Culture and the Danish National Archives.