Archive for the ‘Special Events’ Category
Almost 100 years ago, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote: “Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant. If the broad light of day could be let in upon men’s actions, it would purify them as the sun disinfects.”
I like to think that we celebrate Sunshine Week every day at the National Archives. We have a unique role, which we describe as “preserving the past to protect the future.” The beautiful sculptures designed by Robert I. Aitken and chiseled by the Piccarelli Brothers of the Bronx at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance echo this. “The Past” is represented by an ancient bearded man with a scroll and “The Future is a young women with a book. She sits atop a pedestal inscribed with “The Past is Prologue.” That is the spirit which embodies the function we serve.
It also embodies the Freedom of Information Act which we celebrate this week. FOIA was passed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on the Fourth of July in 1966. Since its passage it has been used by scores of people to learn more about how our government works. In 2010 alone, the government received more than 600,000 requests for records under the FOIA. We are proud to have the original text of the FOIA as it was signed into law in 1966. And we are especially proud to… [ Read all ]
On January 10th, I blogged about the “Yes We Scan” petitions proposed by Carl Malamud’s PublicResource.org on the White House’s We The People petition platform. “Yes We Scan” calls for a national strategy, and even a Federal Scanning Commission, to figure out what it would take to digitize the holdings of many federal entities, from the Library of Congress to the Government Printing Office to the Smithsonian Institution.
I have been delighted to see the many ideas discussed in response to that blogpost. I encourage you to keep them coming!
Following that initial post, I worked with the White House Director of New Media, Macon Phillips, and the Director of Online Engagement, Katelyn Sabochik, to set up a conference call, inviting those who voted for the Yes We Scan petition (about 2,500 signers total) to further discuss this important issue and hear your ideas on how to move forward.
Sitting on the call with me were Mike Wash, NARA’s CIO; Pamela Wright, our Chief Digital Access Strategist; and Jill James, our Social Media Manager.
Eighty-five people from all over the country dialed in for the call. Eighteen participants asked questions. I want to thank you for taking the time to call in and to let us know your thoughts.
The topics included questions on everything from the magnitude of the task… [ Read all ]
I had an opportunity to provide the keynote address at a recent meeting of the Association of Library and Information School Education (ALISE). The Association has been active since 1915 in providing a forum for archive and library educators to share ideas, to discuss issues, and to seek solutions to common problems.
As I have been traveling to meet National Archives staff I have made an effort to meet with students and faculty at the graduate programs around the country to educate them about who we are and where we are headed. My goal is to excite them about opportunities to work in the Federal Government, especially my agency. So the ALISE program was a great opportunity to meet with a group of students, faculty, and deans—all in one room—and to encourage them to think about their teaching and research programs and how they meet the needs of the next generation of information professionals.
What I have been telling students is that we are looking for:
- People with a broader background than was the case when I was a graduate student. In addition to history, archives and library science, other subject matter areas are important. Above all, we want people who can connect archival work with real life experiences.
- Technical savvy is a given to work in a
… [ Read all ]
Last week we celebrated Bill of Rights Day here at the National Archives in my favorite activity—a Naturalization Ceremony in the Rotunda. On December 15, 1791, the first ten amendments the Constitution were adopted and for many years we have been marking the anniversary by hosting the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s swearing-in ceremony for new citizens of the United States.
This year, 19 individuals became citizens. They came from Armenia, Canada, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Nigeria, Venezuela, Pakistan, Peru, United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Sri Lanka. If you have never seen the course of instruction and examination which prospective citizens complete, it is worth a look. Take the test yourself and see how you do! I always find it a good reminder of how lucky we are and how much we take for granted about our rights and freedoms.
The Honorable Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court for the District of Columbia, administered the Oath of Allegiance and then shared the story of discovering his own family’s French Huguenot background. I had an opportunity to remind them of their new responsibilities as citizens (see my remarks) and to share the story of my grandparents’ arrival from Italy.
Our special guest speaker stole the show with his… [ Read all ]
Last week I hosted our Annual Archivist’s Awards Ceremony. It was an opportunity for me, along with the other senior leaders of the National Archives to acknowledge outstanding service over the past year, and to thank the entire staff for their hard work and focus on the mission of the agency. I said:
For those of you who might be tweeting my remarks, I’m about to make your task very easy for you. You can sum up what I’m going to say today in just ten characters… including an exclamation point: Thank you!
I’m here this afternoon to express my profound appreciation, my heartfelt thanks for the terrific work you do—which I have seen firsthand in almost all of our sites.
When I came to the archives two years ago, I had heard that the employees here were dedicated, hard-working, professional and loyal. Every day since then, as I’ve wandered around and talked with you and your customers or users I see more and more proof of that. I’ve also had an opportunity to visit other agencies and I can honestly say that you are the most dedicated of all Federal employees and have the most pride in what you do. Every one of you also makes a difference every single day in the lives of American citizens. The… [ Read all ]
On Friday the first Plenary Session of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) was hosted at the National Archives. The Project was launched in October 2010 at a workshop convened at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and was the inspiration of Robert Darnton, the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the Harvard University Library. The intent was to work toward the creation of “an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources that would draw on the nation’s living heritage from libraries, universities, archives, and museums in order to educate, inform, and empower everyone in the current and future generations.” A lofty goal, indeed!
In the intervening months since that original meeting, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, with funding from the Sloan Foundation, has taken on responsibilities for moving the project forward. A Secretariat and Steering Committee have been formed, as well as six work streams—audience and participation, content and scope, financial/business models, governance, legal issues, and technical aspects.
This past Thursday the work streams met for the first time at George Washington University to discuss their work, create scope statements and identify their priorities. Most importantly, each group identified and shared their overlap areas with the whole group.
On Friday more than 300 government leaders, librarians, technologist,… [ Read all ]
Access to records in this century means digital access. For many people, if it is not online, it doesn’t exist. The use of social media to increase access is the new norm. NARA has been going after innovative tools and projects that increase digital access to our records, including projects that invite public participation. We are developing a Citizen Archivist Dashboard that will encourage the public to pitch in via social media tools on a number of our projects. You will hear about these and more of our projects at next week’s McGowan Forum, “What’s Next in the Social Media Revolution.”
The Forum is also intended to explore issues well beyond our current innovations, and to provide a discussion of what’s next in social media innovation within government and beyond. Our moderator for the evening is Alex Howard, the Government 2.0 correspondent for O’Reilly Media. Alex is @digiphile on Twitter, with over 100,000 followers on that social media platform alone.
- Macon Phillips, the White House Director of New Media
- David Weinberger, senior researcher at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society
- Pam Wright, Chief Digital Access Strategist at the National Archives
So come on over to the McGowan Forum Friday night, bring your inquisitive friends, and find out what’s next.
Friday, November 4, at 7 p.m.[ Read all ]
Last week I had an opportunity to address the Preservation Section meeting of the Society of American Archivists. The theme of the meeting was holdings protection—balancing access to holdings with safeguarding them. And two of our Holdings Protection staff, Larry Evangelista and Richard Dine participated in a panel discussion reporting on what we have accomplished to date in this area. My remarks at the meeting were an opportunity for me to reflect on my many years of worry on this topic:
We’ve come a long way from the time when books were chained to shelves but I often wonder if maybe that wasn’t such a terrible way to provide collection security! Daily we all deal with the tension between protection and access.
Chained books in the Hereford Cathedral Chained Library
I have spent my entire career worrying about and dealing with collection security issues. As a shelver in the Humanities Library at MIT, my morning duties included clearing the reading room tables and reshelving. There I discovered the journals with articles ripped out, books in the Women’s Studies section which had been mutilated, the era of Winslow Homer woodcut engravings sliced from Harper’s Weekly. The Sex Collection was kept in a locked cage in the
… [ Read all ]
This 4th of July, the National Archives celebrated the 235th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with its traditional Fourth of July program in Washington, DC. The celebration included patriotic music, a dramatic reading of the Declaration by historical reenactors, and of course, the National Archives float in the Independence Day Parade!Historical reenactors read the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the National Archives.
This year, I had the privilege of welcoming Chef Jose Andres and his family aboard the National Archives’ float, which was decorated with images from our new exhibit, “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?”
Chef Jose Andres and Archivist David Ferriero aboard the National Archives float in the Independence Day Parade.
The National Archives float featured images from our newest exhibit, “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?”
Chef Andres is the Culinary Advisor to the exhibit, and July 4th marked the opening of his new restaurant, America Eats Tavern. This “pop-up” restaurant is a complement to the exhibit, featuring a menu of classic American dishes served up with Chef Andres’ signature style.
Chef Jose Andres and Archivist David Ferriero at the National Archives Independence Day Celebration
Recently, I had the pleasure of sampling some of America Eats’ menu items, and I know you’re going to love it. If you’ve already tried it out, let me know what you think!
The Nation’s Report Card, recently released by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, doesn’t have good news about our student’s academic achievement in American history. Just 13% of high school seniors, 18% of eighth-graders, and 22% of fourth-graders ranked at the proficient level. “These results tell us that, as a country, we are failing to provide children with a high-quality, well-rounded education,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Here at the National Archives we are attacking this problem with our new DocsTeach product, our Boeing Learning Center activities, and our diverse program and education activities. We feel a strong commitment to contributing to the solution.
But on Thursday I was honored to participate in the National History Day Awards ceremony at the University of Maryland where 8,000 students, teachers, and parents gathered to celebrate history! Every state and territory was represented with an enthusiastic contingent who paraded around Cole Field House before the program started. The papers and projects were superb. I got to celebrate with the Massachusetts, North Carolina, and New York representatives. Restored my faith in the academic chops of our students!