Existing Micrographic Index and Full-Text Search Make it Easy to Find Case Files
Digital ReeL combines full-text search with the original micrographic indexing method, enabling users to quickly find information in a number of ways. The County Clerk’s physical microfilm records were originally organized by case number. In the past, researchers had to page through physical index books, searching for a name associated with a case. Once the name was found, the case number would allow the user to locate the appropriate, physical microfilm roll(s).
Vance states, “By digitally scanning the index information and the microfilm to Digital ReeL, the search for case files is faster, easier and more flexible. Researchers can now use the full-text search of Digital ReeL to locate specific names within the index pages.” When queried, the names will appear in context of their location in the index books, allowing some initial qualification by the user. Once the specific name is located, the corresponding case number is identified. Users can then type in the case number and bring up the digitized record of the case, just as originally presented on the microfilm. If the text of the old index book is not indexed by OCR (e.g. if it was hand-written), users can simply page through the digital index books in Digital ReeL (just as they would page through the physical book) to find the location of the case file reference. Vance states, “Record searches that might take 30 minutes or longer in the past are now completed in a matter of seconds using Digital ReeL.”
Adjustable Grayscale Enhances the Image Quality of the Entire Archive
Many of the County Clerk records are very old, dating back into the 1800’s. Originally, the records were written on onion skin paper. When the records were converted from paper to microfilm many years ago, the filming techniques were not refined and as a consequence, many of the images were difficult to read from the microfilm archive.
Occasionally, during a record search, the images found were not readable on the County Clerk’s microfilm copy and they had to request the original microfilm roll from the Washington State Archives – which further delayed the record retrieval process. Vance states, “Digital ReeL’s adjustable grayscale is incredible, enabling us to bring into focus a record that was almost unusable on the physical microfilm. We can now bring it into focus, lighten it, darken it and fine tune the image into a high quality document.”
In the future, the County Clerk will be able to include these digital records in the Clerk ePass system. Vance concludes, “Our Clerk ePass system makes it possible for the public to purchase electronically certified records through a secure web-site on the Internet.