Archive for the ‘Special Events’ Category

Digital Public Library of America

Written on: October 24, 2011 | 2 Comments

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!

Visual artist drawing on poster board.  Poster titled: DLPA - What is the DPLA?

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, makers, students, and others interested members of the public “occupied” the National … [ Read all ]

What’s Next?

Written on: October 19, 2011 | 5 Comments

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.

Panelists include:

  • 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.
William G. McGowan Theater

Seventh … [ Read all ]

Reflections on Collection Security

Written on: August 30, 2011 | 4 Comments

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 basement because of theft!  During my 31 years there I dealt with the disappearance of many years of the

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Fireworks, Floats, and Food!

Written on: July 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

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 reenactorsHistorical 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?”

National Archives float
Chef Jose Andres and Archivist David Ferriero aboard the National Archives float in the Independence Day Parade.

National Archives float
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.
Andres and FerrieroChef 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 ]

How Our Students Are Doing

Written on: June 20, 2011 | 0 Comments

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 ]

What’s Cooking?

Written on: June 10, 2011 | 6 Comments

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.

The Archivist at the exhibit preview

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.

The exhibit opens today and for the next six months we will be doing an amazingly creative series of programs and events relating to food.  … [ Read all ]

RACO and The Archivist Achievement Awards

Written on: May 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

I enjoyed speaking with federal records managers on Wednesday at the National Archives’ Records Administration Conference (RACO).  The records managers’ role in government is an essential part of our mission of preserving the records of the past and the present for study and use in the future.

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.

Our progress includes:

National Archives panel discussion
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
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Written on: May 25, 2011 | 2 Comments

According to, the internet traffic ranking company, there are only six websites that internet users worldwide visit more often than Wikipedia: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo!,, and (the leading Chinese language search engine).  In the States, it ranks sixth behind   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 ]

Crowdsourcing and Citizen Archivist Program

Written on: May 19, 2011 | 3 Comments

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:

I encourage you to watch the video of the full program below.

Try your hand at these and other types of crowdsourcing projects and let us know what types of projects you would like to see the National Archives develop in the future.… [ Read all ]

Commencement Season

Written on: May 10, 2011 | 5 Comments

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?
  • Have you found the capacity to love others with
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