Archive for the ‘Special Events’ Category

Declassification Prioritization

Written on: December 2, 2013 | 5 Comments

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) recently hosted an open meeting to discuss its recommendations to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System, focusing on declassification prioritization. PIDB continues to advocate for public discussion on the report. This meeting represented opportunities to highlight recommendations from the report, continue the conversation about the current declassification system, and discuss the topics citizens want prioritized for declassification.

top secret stamp

The meeting also hosted a panel discussion on “Perspectives on Prioritizing Government Records for Declassification and Public Access,” featuring Stephen Randolph, Historian at the Department of State; Joseph Lambert, Director of Information Management Services at the Central Intelligence Agency; Michael Dobbs, Journalist and Scholar-in-Residence at the Holocaust Museum; and Stephen Aftergood from the Federation of American Scientists.

My opening remarks at the meeting were an opportunity to emphasize the importance of the National Archives’ role in this democratic process, and to highlight the work we are doing to eliminate the declassification backlog and modernize records management practices:

When people have open access to government information, they are able to hold government accountable for its actions. This is an essential part of our democracy. As Thomas Jefferson wrote from Paris in 1789: “whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government…whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on … [ Read all ]

Bringing History to Life

Written on: November 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

Last night I had the distinct honor of welcoming director Steven Spielberg to the National Archives and presenting him with the Foundation for the National Archives’ Records of Achievement Award for bringing our nation’s history to life on the big screen. Also joining us was previous award recipient Ken Burns, who spoke with Mr. Spielberg onstage about history, storytelling, and the National Archives.

From left to right: Executive Director of the Foundation Patrick Madden, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, director Steven Spielberg, filmmaker Ken Burns, and President of the Foundation’s Board of Directors A’Lelia Bundles.

From left to right: Executive Director of the Foundation Patrick Madden, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, director Steven Spielberg, filmmaker Ken Burns, and President of the Foundation’s Board of Directors A’Lelia Bundles.

This event was also an important opportunity for me to recognize and thank the terrific staff of the National Archives and the Foundation for the National Archives—the folks who really make my job easy.

If you’re the kind of person who sits through the credits of a movie—as you should be—and you sat through the Lincoln credits, you would have seen staff member Kate Mollan’s name and the National Archives and Records Administration for her help on the research on the 13th Amendment.  I believe it is the first time a member of the staff has been named in a major motion picture.  Thanks for making us all look good, Kate.

The monumental statues on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the building honor the Past and … [ Read all ]

Celebrating Passion and Accomplishment

Written on: November 15, 2013 | 1 Comment

With the opening of the “Discovery and Recovery” exhibit, I had a chance last week to thank many of the National Archives staff who made it possible.  And it truly took a village to make this happen!  Staff from just about every corner of the Agency contributed—preservation and conservation, security, legal, communications, exhibits, digital engagement, innovation, digital preservation, holdings protection, programs, and facilities.  Truly a team effort.

discovery and recovery

Photo of the “Discovery and Recovery” exhibit in the Lawrence O’Brien Gallery. Photograph from the National Archives’ Instagram account: instagram.com/usnatarchives

In my remarks to the assembled staff I tried to convey my pride in their work, but also my pride in the passion and commitment they bring to the job every day.  And I was reminded of the closing lines of Donna Tartt’s new novel, The Goldfinch, about the rescue of a painting:

“…if disaster and oblivion have followed this painting down through time—so too has love.  Insofar as it is immortal (and it is) I have a small, bright, immutable part in that immortality.  It exists; and it keeps on existing.  And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along … [ Read all ]

Preserving History

Written on: October 31, 2013 | 1 Comment

Next week we will be opening an extraordinary exhibit, “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage,” at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The exhibit, spanning more than 400 years, tells the story of the dramatic recovery on May 6, 2003, of 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents from a flooded basement in the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein’s secret police.

Before Treatment: Letter from the British Military Governor’s Office

Before Treatment: Letter from the British Military Governor’s Office in Baghdad to the Chief Rabbi Regarding the Allotment of Sheep for Rosh ha-Shanah, the Jewish New Year, 1918.

The discovery, named the Iraqi Jewish Archive, included some of the most sacred texts of the Jewish people, including an ancient Torah, Talmud and Zohar—along with tens of thousands of documents relating to the Jewish community in Iraq. Upon the discovery of the documents, we were immediately called in due to our Agency’s extensive expertise in protecting great cultural treasures such as these from decay and destruction.

Materials drying outside the Mukhabarat

Materials drying outside the Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters.

 

Led by our Director of Preservation Programs, Doris A. Hamburg, and supported by the U.S. Department of State, the National Archives has for more than a decade taken painstaking efforts to preserve these texts and digitize them for universal public access. Their relentless dedication has ensured that these sacred texts will be kept alive and … [ Read all ]

Congratulations to the Digital Public Library of America

Written on: October 25, 2013 | 3 Comments

What happens when archives, libraries and museums come together? They build something amazing.

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is here, and the National Archives is proud to participate as a leading content provider in this exciting online portal and platform.

The DPLA provides a single online access point for anyone, anywhere to search and access digital collections containing America’s cultural, historical and scientific heritage. Following the successful launch in April 2013, DPLA continues to grow, regularly bringing in new partners and content. For the latest news, check out DPLAfest 2013, happening right now in Boston!

This large-scale collaborative effort to create a universal digital public library has united leaders and educators from various government agencies, libraries, archives and museums. Together with several large content providers, such as the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian, and Harvard University, the National Archives is sharing content from our online catalog in the DPLA.

In fact, the National Archives has already contributed 1.9 million digital copies of historical material, including our nation’s founding documents, photos from the Documerica Photography Project of the 1970’s, World War II posters, Mathew Brady Civil War photographs, and a wide variety of documents that define our human and civil rights.

WPA Library Bookmobile 195912
“WPA Library Bookmobile,” National Archives Identifier 195912

The National Archives’ participation in this exciting project marks a new opportunity to share our … [ Read all ]

Hanging Out for American Archives Month

Written on: September 10, 2013 | 5 Comments

October is American Archives month, a time to raise awareness about the value of archives and archivists and to celebrate that work.  One of the ways we are participating this year will be to discuss the work of the Archivist of the United States.

As a kickoff to American Archives Month, I invite you to join us on Google+ for an Ask the Archivist Hangout.   I’ll be answering your questions on Tuesday, September 24, 2–2:30 pm, ET, from my office in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.  And if you’re not able to watch it live, the hangout will be posted on YouTube so you can check it out later.

So, what will we talk about?  That’s up to you!  Send me your questions about what it means to be the Archivist of the United States by posting them in the comments to this blog post, tweet them with the #AskAOTUS hashtag, or post them on Google+ with the same hashtag.  I’m ready to answer any questions you might have and I will even show you around my office.  I’m eager to hang out with you on September 24!

AOTUS Hangout

 Original Image: Photograph of Radio Broadcast for the March of Dimes with Margaret Truman and Others, 01/21/1948, National Archives Identifier 199642

Remember: The Hangout is on Tuesday, September 24, 2:00–2:30 pm, ET.

Post your questions … [ Read all ]

Thanks, Mr. Hollerer

Written on: August 12, 2013 | 0 Comments

Emery “Joe” Hollerer was my high school English teacher and on Friday night at the 50th Reunion of the Beverly (MA) Class of 1963 we all had a chance to thank him for the role he has played in shaping our lives.

Emery “Joe” Hollerer and David Ferriero

Emery “Joe” Hollerer and David Ferriero

My own love of literature and reading was fostered under his tutelage.  He expected us to read at least 50 pages a night and to this day if I miss my quota I feel the guilt!

Senior year this English class was responsible for the high school newspaper and many of us were on the literary magazine staff, so teaching writing was an important part of Mr. Hollerer’s portfolio.  Our efforts were returned with a rubber-stamped grading guide he developed—SPLAGM—which was the topic of much conversation Friday night!  Spelling, punctuation, logic, arrangement, grammar, and maturity.  One of my classmates admitted to him that he had always had someone else write his first and last paragraphs and Mr. Hollerer always praised only the first and last paragraphs of his papers!

Public speaking rounded out the curriculum for this class.  Getting up in front of our classmates was pretty traumatic but Mr. Hollerer, as he did in every class, made learning fun.  I particularly remember the week we did “demonstration speeches”—explaining how to do something.   A friend who … [ Read all ]

Happy Birthday Waldo!

Written on: July 17, 2013 | 3 Comments

This is the birthday of Waldo Gifford Leland, born this day in 1879 in Newton, Massachusetts.  He was a historian with careers at the Carnegie Institution and the Library of Congress, and played an important role in the creation of the National Archives.

Leland’s portrait hangs among those of the previous Archivists of the United States.  And I discovered him on a recent afternoon when I noticed that there were 10 portraits.  Counted them twice.  Thought maybe someone had made a mistake and I was number 11, not 10!

Waldo Gifford Leland portrait
Portrait of Waldo Gifford Leland, 1879-1966. From RG 64, Records of the National Archives
The portrait was dedicated on October 24, 1957.

 
Leland was a student of J. Franklin Jameson at Brown and Jameson’s mentee.  Leland took an early interest in archives, compiling the “Guide to the Archives of the Government of the United States in Washington” and searching across the United States for the correspondence of the Continental Congress delegates.

In 1907 he presented a paper to the Columbia Historical Society in Washington stressing the need for a national archives—the beginning of his campaign for preserving the records of the country.  In 1909 he presented his paper, “American Archival Problems,” at the American Archivists Conference, which he helped organize.  In 1912 he wrote “The National Archives:  a Programme” which outlined the poor condition of … [ Read all ]

Happy Fourth of July!

Written on: July 3, 2013 | 1 Comment

In 1776 when John Adams was envisioning future celebrations of the Declaration of Independence he said:

“It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

While he didn’t mention the National Archives and our annual commemoration I am sure he would be pleased with how the home of the Declaration of Independence celebrates this day.  Hundreds of people will be gathering on the Constitution Avenue steps of the National Archives to participate in a dramatic reading of this Charter of Freedom by Abigail and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Ned Hector, and George Washington.   What better way to prepare for the Fourth of July parade in the Nation’s capitol?!

[ Read all ]

A New Deal for a New Generation

Written on: July 1, 2013 | 0 Comments

On the last day of June of 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood at the entrance to his library in Hyde Park, New York—the first of the Presidential Libraries—and dedicated it to the American people with these words:

“It seems to me that the dedication of a library is in itself an act of faith.

To bring together the records of the past and to house them in a building where they will be preserved for the use of men and women in the future, a Nation must believe in three things.

It must believe in the past.

It must believe in the future.

It must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future.”

“…an act of faith.”  These words are as true today as they were in 1941.  In fact, just this past April, in dedicating our newest Presidential Library, George W. Bush quoted those words from President Roosevelt.

AOTUS speaking at FDR Rededication ceremony
David Ferriero addresses the crowd at the FDR Library Rededication Ceremony on June 30, 2013

 

Yesterday at Hyde Park, we rededicated the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, the culmination of a multi-year renovation project and exhibit redesign.   A Presidential Library is and must be a living entity.  President Roosevelt, who created the … [ Read all ]