Archives Wants to Put 1940 Census Online

The National Archives is seeking industry input on a plan to create a searchable database of 1940 U.S. census information when it becomes publicly available in 2012.

By law all census information must become public 72 years after it is collected. This time, instead of simply making images of the census available for checkout on microfilm, the Archives plans to also make scans of the census schedules and maps searchable online and available for download, according to a request for information from the agency.

The Archives hasn't committed to an official solicitation for the project, but envisions it as a no cost contract, according to the RFI.The purpose of the RFI was to gather information on options for providing managed hosting and online access to the 1940 Census, according to a public affairs specialist at the Archives.

"Drawing from [the National Archives and Records Administration's] experience in releasing the 1930 Census and the experience of the National Archives of the United Kingdom when [it] released [its] 1901 and 1911 Censuses, NARA anticipates immense interest in the 1940 Census and a tremendous increase in traffic to its website," the agency said.

The Archives already has created 3.8 million JPEG images from the 1940 Census schedules and maps, amounting to 20 Terabytes of data, the agency said.

The Archives is looking for a host that will allow researchers and other users to zoom in on handwritten records, pan between records and search for records by state, city, county, township or census enumeration district, the agency said.

On the day of the census' April 2, 2012, release, the host also must be able to support up to 10 million daily hits with response times of three seconds or less for keyword searches, the Archives said, and be able to support up to 25,000 concurrent users.

An earlier version of this post stated the Archives vendor who provided the no cost solution would be able to charge a fee to access the records. According to the agency, it will continue to provide free online access when the 1940 Census is released in April 2012. The post has been corrected.