150 years of Hansard now online

The Herald reports:

Since had its very first debate in the mid-19th century, MPs have uttered about 500 million words in the debating chamber.

Nearly every one of those words has been transcribed verbatim and bound into volumes called , after Thomas Curson Hansard, the first official printer in the UK Parliament.

And this week, as Hansard celebrates its 150th anniversary, they will be published online in their entirety.

Ahead of the anniversary, the Clerk of the House David Wilson began investigating the possibility of a complete digital record of the debates.

In an extraordinary stroke of luck, much of the work had already been done without him knowing. The University of California digitised every Hansard volume from 1867 to 1985, as part of Google’s ambitious attempt to scan every book in the world.

This included the painstaking task of manually scanning every page of the volumes. Because many of the older volumes are fragile, it was done with a high-definition camera while a Google employee carefully turned the pages.

One of the Hansard project’s co-ordinators, Peter Riches, said that was a huge relief.

“It was 723 volumes at about 1000 pages each, so it’s quite a big project, and quite expensive. And someone has to physically do it.”

Great work to have the entire history of the NZ Parliament online.

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