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An information goldmine: The World Bank Group Archives goes online

Elisa Liberatori Prati's picture
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 Accessing the holdings of the World Bank Group archives

Until recently, archives users — including academics, development partners, and other researchers — had to travel miles, sometimes even across continents, to be able to access records kept in the World Bank Group Archives. But now, users will no longer have to be in Washington, D.C. to look at declassified materials.

In April 2015, as part of its commitment to transparency and openness, the World Bank Group launched its Archives Holdings website. This is a state-of-the-art platform, which maximizes the public’s online access to a vast amount of original primary source material in the custody of the Archives.
 
Created using the Access to Memory open source software, the website facilitates a faster, more efficient, and personalized online service delivery model. The software serves as a catalog that provides basic information about the resources of the Archives, and it is equipped with user-friendly finding aids compliant with the International Standard for Archival Description. The website delivers an increasing quantity of digitized records from the early 1940s onward, making them available for the first time to public users who cannot come to the Archives reading room in Washington, D.C.

While the World Bank Group recognizes its obligation to maintain the confidentiality of certain restricted information, the Archives Holdings website offers a vast number of administrative and operational records created by different departments in the Bank. Users can now also access iconic historical records, such as President McNamara’s Nairobi Speech (1973).
 
In addition to documents that provide a broad perspective on the Bank’s activities over seven decades, other featured materials include:

  • Records describing the evolution of development assistance theory;
  • Policies and procedures for development projects;
  • Economic studies and research studies;
  • Mechanisms for country assistance, and more.


​The website was launched as part of the new Open Archives program, a key component of the Bank’s landmark Policy on Access to Information (AI Policy). This program aims to make information easily accessible to the public, and maximize the impact of its open initiatives. By enabling access to the oldest and only multiregional development archives, we give voice to the experience of generations of development workers and their counterparts to help answer the questions and inform the decisions of today's development community. Through the Archives Holdings website the Bank provides increased access to the Archives’ paper holdings, including records that countries’ archives have lost due to natural disasters, decay, or destruction during political turmoil.
 
Since the launch of the AI Policy in 2010, Archives has released an unprecedented amount of information to the public. To date, up to 1.7 million pages of archival documents have been declassified, and over 775,000 pages have been digitized, which are now available for online access. Within a period of two weeks from the launch date, the Archives Holdings website registered over 1,700 online visits, with close to 8,000 page views. Compared with the total number of 200 researchers who visited the Archives reading room since 2010, reviewing records for weeks at a time, this confirms that online access boosts the use of this unique resource.
 
We hope that the Archives Holdings website, as a key element of the Bank’s Open Development initiative, will help foster understanding, knowledge, and the development of new solutions to new problems based on awareness of the past, what worked and what did not. 
 
Please share your stories on how you have used World Bank Archives information. Let your voice be heard! Tell us what you think in the comments below.
 
Also, check how familiar you are with World Bank resources and information! Take the World Bank Openness Quiz and share your results on social media!

Comments

Submitted by Ashok Kapoor on

I had an opportunity to see the rich documentary heritage of the World Bank way back in 1988.i am glad to know that now the rich sources of World Bank are now available to the general public on line. The open development initiative of World Bank Archives would be welcomed by the research scholars all over the world.
Ashok Kapoor,
Former Chief Archivist,
Reserve Bank of India Archives

Submitted by Vanessa Andris on

Congratulations and thank you to Elisa and the entire team. This a quantum step forward in information sharing that must have required a tremendous coordinated effort among many colleagues. A great achievement. Bravo!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Please write something more about the Augmented Reality and Blippar. How do you use it?

Submitted by Elisa, Chief Archivist on

Download the Blippar app on your phone or tablet, open it, and then hold it up to the image you want to recognize. Fill the screen with as much of the image as you can (not just the logo), hold still, and wait. Just point it to page 7 of the archives brochure to see how it works. Thanks for your question.

Submitted by Fidel Odey on

Great milestones. Congratulations.

Submitted by Dr. S. Sankar on

Information is the path to empowerment. Your efforts to offer solace to different sections of societies, the world over, will definitely be strengthened by this AI Policy. Only three days back I got thousands of pages from WB free books printed for the benefit of my students and colleagues in our college. Continue the good work and together we all can bring about change (desired).

Submitted by Claudia Kedar on

Great news! The new Archive Holdings will certainly contribute to academic research on the World Bank.

Submitted by Charles Enyondo on

Congratulations and thank you for showing the way. You have eliminated the distance between the archives and the users. Great work! Charles Enyondo, Bank Archivist, Bank of Uganda.

Submitted by Kathy Woolbright on

I am so happy for this. It is this service that will enable my city government that their project with the World Bank must be disclosed to the public. Thank you so much. The loan regarding the Second Urban development in the Philippines in 1979 is what I intend to research. There are no reports in Cebu, Philippines. With another project ongoing now specifically re BRT transportation, government will have to be transparent . Thanks again. I will check now how to get my info .

On behalf of the World Bank Group Archives team I would like to thank you all for the words of appreciation and encouragement. It is indeed work in progress, but we have chosen our path and we have a clear sense of direction now for our next steps... We'll get there. Thank you all!

Submitted by Ed Kesseh on

An information goldmine indeed! Thank you World Bank Group Archives.

Submitted by Antonietta (Tonci) Poduie on

Dear Elisa,

Great news and wonderful achievement. Looking forward to accessing the archives and to seeing you next time in DC.

Best,

Antonietta

Submitted by Parkhomenko Larissa on

Information is giving in short, compressed style, but in reality is extremely informative and encouraging, even reassuring. Thanks!

Submitted by Linda Goredema Kembo on

A job well done a great achievement. Would like to hear how you managed to come to this?

Submitted by Elisa Liberatori-Prati on

Linda, the Archives Team worked very hard for many years to make the Bank’s historical information more easily accessible to everyone who is interested to research and learn from it. Digitizing and making records available online supported our commitment to openness and transparency in the context of the WB Access to Information Policy implementation. Please contact us directly at [email protected] if you have any specific questions--both technical and policy related--and we will be happy to respond.

Submitted by Yoshiaki Abe on

Great! Because of your system, I can write a series of papers. I am grateful. My dream is further declassification of Transcript of Board Proceedings got the improvement of the quality of my papers.

Submitted by Anabel Rodriguez on

Congratulations!

I have had the opportunity to access many of the digitalized archival records for my research (PhD) about the evaluation tools and concepts at the Bank in the health sector. As I am working on health system projects in Mexico financed by the World Bank, I am both interested in generic policy papers, working papers and publications, and in specific project-related papers... Many of them are already available online, which is great for me given that my university is in France!

While I was in Washington DC in spring 2015 to access some of the non-digitalized documents (e.g. correspondence), I was told that some other archival records would probably be digitalized, such as intermediary project documents: these are great news for the researchers and the country officials around the world!

I am so grateful to Bertha and to the whole World Bank Group Archives team for their support and help during both my stay and by email.

Submitted by Dr.Bernard Steiner lfekwe on

Your archive is being helpful..l use it to beef up my notes for my PG
students in History.

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