More than 100 volunteers have so far indexed approximately 14,000 historical documents related to the history of the Danish West Indies into an online database, a press release from the Danish National Archives said Tuesday.
The volunteer-led “crowdsourcing” effort is the latest piece of the archive’s effort to make the historical record of the Danish West Indies more accessible as the centennial of the islands’ transfer to the United States approaches.
According to the archives, a total of 30,000 documents are expected to be added to the database, which will be made public on a new website to be launched around the time of the centennial in Spring 2017.
“The Danish National Archives serves as a common memory,” said Niklas Thode Jensen, an archivist working at the institution. “We therefore want to make this extraordinary material accessible to as many people as possible.”
Jensen said the digital database will be easily searchable, which will make it much more simple for people with Danish West Indian heritage to trace their family histories.
So far there has been a great amount of interest in the project and its subject matter from volunteers, the archive’s press release states.
Dante C. Beretta, a resident of Melrose, Minn., has indexed more than 1,900 records.
“I grew up in St. Thomas in the former Danish West Indies and have been researching my family history for many years,” Beretta said.
“These records have opened up a wealth of new information about my family history, but have lacked an index, which can make the search difficult. When the records are made available in 2017, the index that we are working on will make the historic material all the more valuable,” he said.
The Danish National Archives said the digitization of its Danish West Indian records includes material equivalent to about 1,300 yards of shelf space, a total of 5 million digitized images. The project was made possible due to a donation from the A. P. Møller Foundation and is being carried out in cooperation with the Danish Ministry of Culture.