I attended a presentation yesterday organized by the National Capital Association of Law Libraries (NCALL) where a representative from the Library of Parliament (LOP) outlined plans to make all older federal parliamentary debates available for free via PDF within the next few years.
Currently, pre-1900 debates are available in digital format on the Canadiana.org subscription website. Senate debates from 1996 onwards and House of Commons debates from 1994 onwards are available online on the parliamentary website.
LOP has teamed up with Canadiana.org in a five-year collaborative effort to create a free-of-charge portal that will offer searchable access to federal Hansards going back to the years of Confederation.
According to the schedule presented at the NCALL meeting:
- 2013 will see the release on the new free portal of all pre-1900 Hansards already available via the subscription product known as Early Canadiana Online, as well as the loading of Hansards from 1988 to the mid-1990s
- in the 2013-14 fiscal year, Hansards from 1940 to 1987 will be processed and loaded
- in the 2014-15 fiscal year, Hansards from 1900 to 1939 will be processed and loaded
- in Years 4 and 5 of the project, there will be ongoing maintenance and enhancements as dollars permit
The material will be organized by parliamentary session and PDF pages will be at the level of individual sitting days.
The total budget for the 5-year digitization effort is around $325,000.
Things will never be perfect of course. With older items, there may be problems with the quality of the print originals used for digital scanning. And while the topical Indexes for each of the older parliamentary sessions will be searchable, there won’t be links from any particular index item to the corresponding Hansard page(s).