Author Archive

Happy American Archives Month

Written on: October 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Beverly (MA) High School is a happening place!  Last week BHS graduate Angie Miller, an American Idol finalist visited.  And the day after, AOTUS spent the day—the first time since June of 1963!

As I said many times during the day, it was not the same Beverly High School that I left.  I was tremendously impressed with the seamless integration of technology throughout, the active participation of the students in the learning experience, and the excitement of the students hosting a visitor from Washington.

AOTUS at classroom at Beverly High School
David Ferriero visits student classrooms at Beverly High School. Photo by The Salem News

I got to visit classrooms, chop onions and garlic in a culinary arts class, and speak to hundreds of students in an afternoon assembly.  I wanted to make my time with them as meaningful as possible so suggested that we do some crowdsourcing of questions in advance.  Lots of great questions arrived which sorted neatly into four categories:  the records, the job, the institution, and personal questions.

What type of documents do you archive?  Do you read all of them? What happens if you touch an historical document?  What is your role in government?  What are your daily duties?  What is your salary?  How do you keep it all organized?  Is there very tight security in the archives?  What do you wear to work?  Have you ever … [ Read all ]

The Scan Plan: Our Strategy to Digitize the Vast Holdings of the National Archives

Written on: October 9, 2014 | 6 Comments

The National Archives’ Strategic Plan includes a simple, but audacious initiative: to digitize our analog records and make them available for online public access. We have over 12 billion pages of records, so yes, this is our moon shot.

To achieve this goal, we know we need to think in radically new ways about our processes, and we have started by creating a new digitization strategy.  From the time we published our 2008 digitization strategy through today, we have scanned over 230 million objects.  This is a huge number, but we have a long road ahead.  Our new strategy pushes us further.

Scanning technique demonstrated by Mattie Woodford
Scanning technique demonstrated by Mattie Woodford, Powell Group film scanner, taken April 1961. National Archives Identifier 7665735.

We know we cannot do all of this by ourselves. We will continue to collaborate and build on efforts with private and public organizations to digitize records, as well as branch out to citizen archivists, other federal agencies and institutions worldwide. We will develop clear processes and technologies to support a workflow from staff digitization efforts, as well as ensure that records arriving at NARA are accompanied by standardized metadata, and make them available online in a shorter period of time.

We will set measures and track progress for each of these approaches, because we believe we can make digital access happen and we … [ Read all ]

Additional Guidance on Managing Email Released

Written on: September 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

I am pleased to announce that the Office of Management and Budget and the National Archives released a memo yesterday afternoon to the heads of executive departments and independent agencies on managing email. Over the past few weeks, this issue has been brought into focus through testimony that I delivered to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In addition, we have received questions from agencies as they are reviewing our Capstone Bulletin to determine if this approach is feasible for them. This is also important in light of the requirement in the Managing Government Records Directive (OMB M-12-18) for all email to be managed electronically by December 31, 2016.

The memo reinforces the importance for each agency to manage their email properly and includes a new NARA Bulletin to assist agencies. NARA Bulletin 2014-06 reminds agency heads of existing NARA guidance and resources to assist in managing email.  The memo also reminds agencies of the upcoming deadline in the Directive to develop suitable training for all agency personnel.

Our Office of the Chief Records Officer is leading our efforts to work with agencies to meet all the goals in the Directive. For more information about this work, and other initiatives they are undertaking, please visit their Records Express blog.… [ Read all ]

Happy Labor Day!

Written on: August 29, 2014 | 0 Comments

“A truly American sentiment recognizes the dignity of labor and the fact that honor lies in honest toil.” -Grover Cleveland

Public Law 53-95: An Act Making Labor Day a Legal Holiday, June 28, 1894
General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives and Records Administration

Labor Day Act[ Read all ]

Happy Birthday, Annie Oakley!

Written on: August 22, 2014 | 1 Comment

Letter to William McKinley offering to raise a troop of 50 lady sharpshooters to fight the Spanish American War.  They would provide their own rifles and ammunition.  Unfortunately, women were not allowed to serve at that point in our history.

Annie Oakley letter to William McKinley

Letter to President William McKinley from Annie Oakley. April 5, 1898. National Archives Identifier 300369[ Read all ]

Special Visitors

Written on: August 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

Tracy Bray contacted us recently and wondered if she could bring her father and family for a special visit to the National Archives in Washington.  It was a surprise for her father, Harry Edward Neal Jr.  The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have special meaning to all of us and especially to the Neal family.  Mr. Neal’s father, Harry Edward Neal, was the Secret Service Agent in charge of getting those precious parchments into protective custody at Fort Knox during World War II.

Photo of Harry Edward Neal

Photo of Harry Edward Neal

The Charters had not yet been transferred to the National Archives and were housed at the Library of Congress.  Other documents slated for this secret mission included The Gutenberg Bible, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural and Gettysburg Addresses, and the Lincoln Cathedral copy of the Magna Carta which had been on display at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City.

Agent Neal’s detailed report to Frank J. Wilson, Chief of the Secret Service, is fascinating.  An armored truck “under suitable guard” moved the material from the Library of Congress Annex to Union Station where a drawing room and adjoining compartments on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad train leaving at 6:30 p.m. on the 26th of December 1941.

A wonderful letter from then Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish, captured the emotion of the moment in his letter … [ Read all ]

My Afternoon with Bacall

Written on: August 13, 2014 | 5 Comments

As the Director of the New York Public Libraries I once had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Lauren Bacall to pitch the NYPL Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center as the repository for her papers.  Accompanying Bob Taylor, then Chief of the Theatre Collection at LPA, we visited her at her home in The Dakota.  To this day, I am torn about which was more exciting—meeting Bacall or being in The Dakota!

Lauren Bacall and Harry Truman

Actress Lauren Bacall sits atop a piano while Vice President Harry S. Truman plays the piano at the National Press Club Canteen. They are at the canteen to entertain the servicemen. February 10, 1945.
Series: Photographs Relating to the Administration, Family, and Personal Life of Harry S. Truman, 1957-2004, NARA ID 198606.

Overlooking Central Park, we sat in her bookcase lined living room, discussing her career and family and her collection.  The bookcases were filled with leather bound volumes—one each for every play, movie, or performance of her life!  Each volume contained an annotated script, newspaper reviews, Playbill, etc.  Her collection was so well organized that it was an archivist/librarian’s dream!  Bob was eloquent in pitching LPA as the appropriate place for the collection given her attitudes about Los Angeles and how New York had become so important to her life.  I remember pitching the contribution to scholarship that the … [ Read all ]

The Hill Staff

Written on: August 1, 2014 | 0 Comments

Last night the Young Founder’s Society (YFS) hosted a reception in the Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office Building.  The YFS is a membership group for young professionals in the Washington, DC, area who are committed to the work of the Foundation for the National Archives to increase awareness of the cultural and historical value of the National Archives.

YFS invitation
Young Founder’s Society event invitation

While the event was part of the YFS’s membership drive, it was an opportunity for me to thank the attendees for their service to the nation and to single out the members of our oversight and appropriations committees for special thanks.  In my 14 hearing appearances to date (but, who’s counting?!) I have been impressed with the knowledge, expertise, and passion which these people bring to their job.

Many of the attendees have visited the National Archives with their Senator or Representative and to a person have left here inspired by the history they have relived through the original records.  To simulate that experience last night several dozen facsimiles were around the room—the 1868 treasury note for $7.2m with which purchased Alaska, the First Continental Congress’ Agreement of Secrecy signed in 1775 to protect the Founders, the bus diagram showing where Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks was seated on that fateful day, and my letter to President Eisenhower asking for … [ Read all ]

ISOO Report to the President

Written on: July 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), established in 1978, is responsible to the President for overseeing the Government-wide security classification program, and receives policy and program guidance from the National Security Council.  ISOO has been part of the National Archives and Records Administration since 1995.  You can learn more about ISOO at www.archives.gov/isoo

The 34th Annual Report to the President covering 2013 was released earlier this month.

ISOO 2013 Report to President

Several positive developments are noted in this report:

  •  The number of persons granted original classification authority continues to decrease and is at its lowest recorded level, standing at 2,269.
  • Agencies reported a 20% reduction in original classification activity
  • ISOO conducted on-site reviews of five agency declassification programs with all agencies receiving a passing score.

Other report highlights:

  •  Agencies reported 58,794 original classification decisions
  • Executive Branch agencies reported 80,124,389 derivative classification decisions
  • Under automatic, systematic, and discretionary declassification review, agencies reviewed 56,332,029 pages and declassified 27,524,342 pages of historically valuable records.

I am proud of the work of our ISOO staff and encourage you to become familiar with this important function here at the National Archives.… [ Read all ]

Patent of the Month: Apparatus for Treating Air

Written on: July 18, 2014 | 2 Comments

Stay cool out there this summer!

Apparatus for Treating Air – Willis H. Carrier, 09/1904 – 01/02/1906.  National Archives Identifier 7268013

air treatment patent

air treatment patent

 … [ Read all ]