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 ]
On Tuesday, January 17, 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to the American people, where he warned of the growing power of the “military-industrial complex.”
On Friday, January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address to the American people, where he charged, “…ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
It was a big week for Presidential speeches.
Many Americans were inspired by these speeches. During their Presidencies, I wrote letters to President Eisenhower and President Kennedy. My letter to President Eisenhower was inspired by a class project where I had to write a report about his trip to India – my first experience with reading The New York Times! My letter to President Kennedy was inspired by his “proposed Peace Corps.” Even as Archivist of the United States, I never imagined that I would be able to see these letters again. I have learned that you should never underestimate what an archivist can find! On my visits to Presidential Libraries, I have seen both of my letters.
The records at Presidential Libraries help tell the story behind these two speeches. I hope you take a few minutes to watch the following videos that help explain the evolution of the speeches through the drafts and notes found within the records … [ Read all ]
With Nancy Reagan at his side, President Obama signed a law establishing the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission in June 2009. As Archivist of the United States, I serve as an ex officio member to “provide advice and information to the Commission.”
Throughout 2011, there are many events planned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of President Reagan’s birth. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum will dedicate their redesigned permanent exhibition on February 6, 2011, President Reagan’s birthday. There will also be a birthday celebration on February 18 at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. Presidential records, including documents, pictures, film, and artifacts, will play a special role at these events.
Photograph of President Reagan and Vice President Bush meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev on Governor’s Island, New York, 12/7/1988
(National Archives, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)
Throughout this year, there will also be a special exhibit of records and artifacts at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. The items currently on display (featured below) center around the theme of foreign relations and will be part of a rotating exhibit in partnership with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.
Ronald Reagan was a president who had a profound effect on the nation and the world during his eight years in office. He also holds a special place in the history of the National Archives.… [ Read all ]
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