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, 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 ]
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 ]
“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
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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.
Letter to President William McKinley from Annie Oakley. April 5, 1898. National Archives Identifier 300369… [ Read all ]
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
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 ]
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!
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 ]
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.
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 ]
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.
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 ]
Stay cool out there this summer!
Apparatus for Treating Air – Willis H. Carrier, 09/1904 – 01/02/1906. National Archives Identifier 7268013
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I’m loving Joseph McCormack’s new book, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less. The focus is on lean communication. McCormack terms it Six Sigma for your mouth! “In our attention deficit economy, being brief is what’s desperately needed and rarely delivered.”
People speak at about 150 words per minute, but we have the mental capacity to deal with 750 words per minute. That leaves a space of 600 words where we drift—think other thoughts, take a mini-vacation, lose focus, etc.
Military Photographer of the Year Winner 1997. Title: Thoughts Elsewhere.
Major Kurt Tek daydreams while coming home from a deployment, 01/01/1997. National Archives Identifier 6498091
McCormack’s tips for clear, concise, and compelling oral presentations are simple: map it, tell it, talk it, and show it. Outline your remarks—background, relevance, information to impart, conclusion, and follow-up anticipating expected questions. Use narrative storytelling to deliver the message. Use a controlled conversation rather than a monologue. And use visuals to increase engagement. Most importantly, stop talking and give people a chance to process. “The mind is a processor, and if you keep hitting the send button, the effect can be maddening and futile.”
I was especially taken with his advice on avoiding TL/DR (too long, didn’t read) on email messages:
- Make it Inviting—a strong subject line
- Limit to One Screen
- Embrace the White Space—instead of 8-10 sentence
… [ Read all ]