You may not be familiar with the American Memory Collection in the Library of Congress. But even if it's not something you are likely to use, it's something you should see.

There are a number of sections in the collection (http://memory.loc.gov), include American Expansion and Travel, none of which has anything to do with accounting or tax preparation. But it has everything to do with state-of-the art document management and retrieval for daily use.

Do the right searches and you can be looking at an image of a Thomas Jefferson letter, the published discussions of the House of Representatives in 1799; a poster from Minnesota in the late 1800s, sheet music of a song written by an African-American composer, or a map drawn by a Spanish cartographer in the 1600s. In many cases, both hand-written and printed documents have also been transcribed in HTML form. Only slightly less astounding is the Bureau of Land Management's indexing and imaging of a few million land patents in thirty or so states that use legal land descriptions. (The BLM site is currently off-line while its security is enhanced.)

The map collection is particularly intriguing. The images cannot be only retrieved, they can be maneuvered and enlarged in order to focus on a particular spot. They are probably easier to read than the originals. The folks that provided the technology for FolioViews, a well-known information retrieval product, developed the technology for the Library of Congress.

The overall collection can be searched by specific words, or a string of words, with the searching ranking the results and showing the number of returns with the exact word or words, followed by the number in which the terms are near each other.

Professional tax research, of course, is oriented towards answering specific questions, while history research often benefits as much from serendipitous findings. It is difficult to curl up with the U.S. Master Tax Guide. And I don't suppose too many accountants hear, "Daddy, tell me again about the all the methods of depreciation." But you never know. Sometimes you find things you weren't looking for, is exactly what you were looking for.

Sites such as these are important because they show the world we are heading toward, not just in the office, but at home. And, they are just fun.

For me, and others in the family history business, the real gem will be when the Latter Day Saints genealogy library is available for browsing in the same way that the American Memory Collection is. The FolioViews designers, who were here showing some Tablet PC technology not too long ago, say it's in the works.

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