National Archives of Thailand: Going digital with online search

To help students & researchers everywhere get easier access to important historical documents, the national archives in the process of putting their over 15 million documents online.

The beautiful interior of the National Archives.

RESEARCH

National Archives of Thailand going digital with online search

31/08/2015
Adapted from article by Pichaya Svasti

Established in 1916 as part of the National Library, the National Archives of Thailand became a division of the Fine Arts Department in 1952.

The National Archives of Thailand is moving ahead with the digitisation of documents, photos, maps and microfilms, some dating back over a century as well as enabling online searches.

Established in 1916 as part of the National Library, the National Archives of Thailand became a division of the Fine Arts Department in 1952. It is responsible for collecting and keeping public and other historical records, helping government agencies on how to manage documents and records, and facilitating research and study for students and teachers.

There are two kinds of archive materials -- written materials and audiovisual records. Audiovisual records include photos, films, videos, slides, maps, plans and more. Only archive documents dated over 25 years are accessible to the public

Each year, between 1,500-1,700 people use the National Archives of Thailand. Repeat users are mostly graduate students who need to use primary sources in their research. A number of visitors are foreigners, especially Japanese, which reflects the globalisation of academic research. Students from Silpakorn University are often found regularly doing research at the archives.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn has been involved in a big way as a consultant in the national archives upgrade. She has visited numerous archives abroad and in January this year, she said to the culture minister that museums, libraries and archives in Thailand must provide modern and quick services with the help of information technology.

Viewing documents on a computer workstation will make doing research easier in the future.


WEBSITE ACCESS FROM HOME

Currently, researchers need to search for things manually from lists of documents, and understand the categorising system since a number of documents are classified and stored according to government ministries.

New computer programs are being installed and will be functional by next month.  At first, users will be able to search at the archives via an intranet system within the archives only. In the future, researchers will be able to search documents from home by entering the National Archives of Thailand's official website.  Eventually, even online searching via smartphones should  be available.

The library card issuance system has also been upgraded so that it takes photos of users and issues cards immediately.

National archives staff hard at work doing restoration work on documents.


HUGE NUMBER OF DOCUMENTS, SOME VERY OLD

The oldest document in the National Archives of Thailand dates to the reign of King Rama IV and is on paper.

In the reading room on the ground floor, users can now search for lists of the Foreign Affairs Ministry's documents, again going back over 100 years, which have been digitised and kept as PDF files. In the photos and maps room on the first floor, users can now search for a number of photos and maps. The intranet searching system has so far included 22,009 photos and 2,456 maps and plans.

The equipment for digitising microfilms is worth more than 2 million baht.


A huge task is digitising the microfilms that contain records of over 15 million written materials. The archives have only 131 staff and an annual budget of 80 million baht, so it will take time. So far, 45 microfilm rolls have been digitised and it is estimated that all of them will be ready for service next year.  The equipment for this task is worth more than 2 million baht.

[As of 2011, the National Archives of Thailand had 10,285 written documents, 24,508 wet plate collodions, 444,009 photos, 808,693 films, 20,062 maps and plans, 2,696 posters, 4,472 calendars, 4,467 audio records, 3,941 visual records, 9,503 microfilms, 734 compact discs, 34 digital visual records, 43,628 bound volumes, government documents and rare books, 1,867 meeting minutes, memos and incident records and 677,269 important news clippings.]

A huge task is digitising the microfilms that contain records of over 15 million written materials.


SHARING INFORMATION WITH PROVINCES & ASEAN

The archives must also make databases about the Asean community and exchange information with other Asean nations.

The new digital platform will be able to share data with all 10 branches of the national archives, including those in Chiang Mai, Phayao, Ubon Ratchathani and Songkhla. Meanwhile, these branches must find and collect more information and photos from local sources.

Ideally, archives must keep and provide a wide variety of information. Archives in foreign countries keep everything. Thailand's archives do not yet have  materials about Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos but they do have a number of Chinese documents.



http://www.bangkokpost.com/tech/local-news/675064/going-digital

About the author

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Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer