Bringing history to life

Lindon company's site takes users to original sources

Published: Sunday, June 15 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

IArchives found people had "tremendous interest" in accessing the historical documents, Wilding said. "We thought, we've built this great factory to digitize content, let's create our own Web site of digitized content."

That was Footnote, which was launched in early 2007, after the National Archives deal was reached. That agreement calls for iArchives to digitize the materials and make it available for free for visitors to National Archives branches, and for a fee on the Footnote.com Web site for subscribers. Subscribers — who now total more than 25,000 — pay either $1.95 per document view or a monthly $7.95 or annual $59.95 rate.

Under the terms of the deal, five years after the records are first made available on Footnote.com, the digitized documents can be placed on the National Archives Web site.

IArchives has 35 full-time employees in Utah, with most involved in scanning images that are sent to about 1,200 outsourced workers in China, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Vietnam and South Africa for digitization and document classification.

The company has two major shareholders: Lindon-based Canopy Ventures and Century Capital Partners in Massachusetts. Wilding declined to disclose financials, other than saying the company is not yet profitable. Still, in March, it had more than a million unique visitors to the Web site, "and we hope to see three times that by the end of the year," he said.

Focus on sharing

Wilding wants visitors to be more than just viewers, by capitalizing on the social-networking components at the Web site. He envisions the site as "the world's shoebox," in which users augment the historical documents and photos with pictures, stories and discussions of their own.

"If they find a family name at the site, they can say, 'OK, I got this far. Does anybody have any additional information about these people, who they're related to or the events that affected their lives?'

"We wanted to create a forum where people could come in and say, 'Oh, yeah. I knew that person; my father served with him in World War I,' or whatever the situation might be," he said. "And we don't want them just talking about it. We want them uploading their photographs and stories."

The part of the site that allows people to upload their own content is free, he said.

Justin Schroepfer already has uploaded photos of his grandfather from World War II, and World War I postcards from his great-grandfather. That's in addition to information about his Vietnam War veteran father. "It goes beyond uploading a photo or a letter. It's really getting people to talk about the stories associated with it, and preserving that, as well," Schroepfer said.

Wilding expects user-contributed content to become more prominent on the Web site, although it may never be the majority of the site's content. He also anticipates that the site will soon have video capabilities.

"Where are we going?" he asked. "It's really to create a fun learning environment for people to come and engage and share."

E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com

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