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.
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 basement because of theft! During my 31 years there I dealt with the disappearance of many years of the
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 … [ Read all ]
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!… [ Read all ]
As someone who likes to cook and collects cookbooks for inspiration, I am high on the latest exhibit to open here at the National Archives.
AOTUS welcomes the press at the “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit preview at the National Archives.
“What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” takes a look at the Government’s role in food, a story told from the records in our custody. It is a story at times funny, at times scary, and always informative. There are photos and recipes from the White House kitchens—President Johnson’s Pedernales River Chili, President Kennedy’s New England Fish Chowder, and even Queen Elizabeth II’s scone recipe, a favorite of President Eisenhower’s. It tells the story of Frank Meyer (the Meyer lemon Meyer!) who trekked throughout Asia in the early 1900s looking for plant specimens and seeds to bring to America. Did you know that the first Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Harvey Wiley, used a human “poison squad” to prove the harmful effects of chemical preservatives in food? And it includes the food pyramid over time—did you know that butter was once a food group?! What great timing—just last week the Department of Agriculture released the new food plate.
When I spoke to this same group last year, I talked about the challenges that we face in records management. Thanks to their hard work, we have started to respond to those challenges. And we have made progress in improving the ability of the Federal government to manage its information.
Supporting a proposal by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to create a new occupational series for Information Management.
Panel Discussion with (Left to Right) Tom Mills, David Weinberg, William Bosanko, and Paul Wester of the National Archives.
The Archivist Achievement Award:
At last year’s conference, I challenged agencies to be more collaborative and to use technology in innovative ways to solve the records management challenges. A number of the nominees responded to that call, and I was pleased to provide The Archivist Achievement Award to two agencies this year:
The Risk Management Agency, United States Department
According to Alexa.com, the internet traffic ranking company, there are only six websites that internet users worldwide visit more often than Wikipedia: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo!, Blogger.com, and Baidu.com (the leading Chinese language search engine). In the States, it ranks sixth behind Amazon.com. Over the past few years, the National Archives has worked with many of these groups to make our holdings increasingly findable and accessible. Our goal is to meet people where they are online.
This past fall, we took the first step toward building a relationship with the “online encyclopedia that anyone can edit,” Wikipedia. When we first began exploring the idea of a National Archives-Wikipedia relationship, Liam Wyatt put us in touch with the local DC-area Wikipedian community.
Liam Wyatt and David Ferriero at the National Archives
Early in our correspondence, we were encouraged and inspired when Liam wrote that he could “quite confidently say that the potential for collaboration between NARA and the Wikimedia projects are both myriad and hugely valuable – in both directions.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Though many of us have been enthusiastic users of the Free Encyclopedia for years, this was our first foray into turning that enthusiasm into an ongoing relationship. As National Archives staff met with the DC Wikipedians, they explained the Archives’ commitment to the Open Government principles of transparency, participation, and … [ Read all ]
At the National Archives, we’re always trying to think of new ways to make our historical records more accessible to the public. We have only a small fraction of our 10 billion records online, so it’s clear we’ve got to get creative.
It’s vital that we learn how other institutions address this challenge. One approach we’re seeing is for institutions to engage citizens in crowdsourcing or microvolunteering projects. These projects leverage the enthusiasm and willingness of online volunteers to transcribe or geotag historical records online.
Yesterday, we hosted a public program in the McGowan Theater called “Are You In? Citizen Archivists, Crowdsourcing, and Open Government. We heard about three innovative projects:
In my 40 years on University campuses, I have participated in many commencement exercises and sat through too many commencement addresses! The best ones are brief, inspiring, and leave you something to think about. On Friday I heard such a speech. I was honored to be part of the exercises at Long Island University. The beautiful C.W. Post campus, former estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post, was the setting on a perfect Spring day. President David J. Steinberg congratulated the graduates and their families, urged them to go forth and do good, and posed seven questions for them to contemplate. I hope that they will do so on a regular basis throughout their lives. As I hope that day’s audience does-as I will.
Dr. Steinberg’s questions:
Can you truly appreciate and engage in our culture and era, even while genuinely respecting peoples from other places or from older times?
Can you discern the truth when you hear it and know when you are listening to rot?
Can you find a career path that makes you fulfilled personally and allows you to make a contribution to society?
Can you appreciate beauty and seek to fill your life with it?
Can you really know yourself, including your strengths and frailties that others, both friend and foe, probably see?
On Sunday, I was honored to provide the keynote address for the Next Century Convocation at MIT, the institution which launched my career and shaped my worldview. I shared my thoughts on MIT’s striking founding vision and how pervasive its influence has been over the last 150 years, even in unexpected places.
MIT’s motto is “mens et manus”, Latin for “mind and hand.” It embodies the educational philosophy of William Barton Rogers and the founders of MIT. Their original proposal to create MIT, Objects and Plan of an Institute of Technology, addresses itself to “…manufacturers, merchants, mechanics, agriculturists, and other friends of enlightened industry in the Commonwealth.”
So where did William Barton Rogers get his inspiration?
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “A man is known by the books he reads…” Rogers was a geologist by training but a look at his personal library gives one a sense of the range of his knowledge, interests, and attitudes toward the approach to education outlined in the Objects and Plan.
In 1975, when the MIT Alumni Association was celebrating its Centennial, a colleague and I had the opportunity to prepare an exhibit based on our yearlong effort to identify and reassemble the founder’s original library. Working from a crude inventory in his own handwriting and with a lot of time at the shelves of all of the MIT Libraries, … [ Read all ]
I’m a big fan of Wikipedia. It’s often the first place I go for information. According to a recent Pew Internet report, I’m also not alone. Forty-two percent of all Americans also turn to Wikipedia for information online.
Every month, almost 80 million people visit Wikipedia and more than 91,000 active contributors have worked on more than 17 million articles in more than 270 languages. Altogether there have been almost 450 million edits!
Wikipedia is an impressive, awe-inspiring resource. In my previous role as Director of the New York Public Libraries, I encouraged staff to contribute to and use Wikipedia. For some librarians and a few archivists — Wikipedia is sometimes not readily embraced. I’ve heard the concerns about accuracy and reliability, but there have been comparative studies that show errors do not appear more frequently in Wikipedia than its printed counterparts. By design, errors can be corrected and neutrality contested. The power lies with you to flag or change content you find incorrect or biased.
On January 22, the National Archives hosted over 90 Wikipedians at WikiXDC, the Washington, D.C. celebration of Wikipedia’s 10th anniversary. This daylong event featured lightening talks, unconference sessions, and behind-the-scene tours of the stacks of the National Archives. During the event, National Archives staff introduced our records and online resources to Wikipedians, and we learned more … [ Read all ]
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