Monday, 28 November 2011

Online access to (sometimes ancient) Hansard

Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield (a greatly respected historian) put done the following written question which was answered last week -

To ask the Chairman of Committees "what assessment he has made of the possibility of providing greater electronic access for the public to historic Hansard data on Millbank Systems' experimental web domain; what plans have been made to host the information on the parliamentary website; and what steps are being taken to digitise data that are not currently available on the experimental website." [HL13352]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): "The Historic Hansard web pages and search engine are hosted on Millbank Systems' web domain on behalf of Parliament and are available to all users of the web. The service is supported on a "best endeavours" basis. PICT and staff from the departments of Information Services of both Houses are currently investigating the options for maintaining and enhancing the current service, and for placing the technical support arrangements on a more sustainable footing. Work is also under way to safeguard the Historic Hansard XML data and page images through the digital preservation project, which is led by the Parliamentary Archives. One of the options under consideration for Historic Hansard would involve integrating the historic web pages with the archive of more recent Hansard material on the website and enabling users to browse and search across the full Hansard record in a more seamless fashion. The timescales, benefits and costs of that approach are being assessed. This project, along with others, has been included in a digitisation programme, which will review requests to digitise parliamentary material currently only available in hard copy. Digitised content from these projects will be added to the main parliamentary website or through partnership websites so that it is easier for users to access the material. More information about the various projects included in this programme of work will be published on the intranet in due course."

I should like to commend and recommend the website - I have used it extensively for my own research (particularly for my current work on whips - and for the paper I wrote for the last Wroxton Conference
(9th Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars & Parliamentarians) "The First Labour Group in the House of Lords, 1924").