Archive for the ‘Special Events’ Category

1940 Census Release

Written on: April 2, 2012 | 1 Comment

On April 1, 1940 over 120,000 census takers fanned out across the United States to begin conducting the 1940 census. Over the next several weeks they would enumerate over 131,000,000 residents of the country from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to families living in the remotest areas of the nation.

Genealogists, social scientists, historians, and others, as well as the staff here at the National Archives, are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to discover what life was like as the country neared the end of the Great Depression. The 1940 census reflects the previous decade with questions intended to track migration and employment during the Depression. For the first time the Bureau of the Census employed sampling when conducting the census. Approximately five percent of the population was asked supplemental questions including ones about military service, the birthplace of parents, and, for women, marital status and the number of children.

On Monday morning, I was pleased to co-host the National Archives’ ceremony along with my friend, Robert Groves, Director of the Census Bureau. Together, we officially opened the 1940 census to the public.  For the first time, we released the 3.8 million pages of the census online, which was the largest online release of a single series of digitized records by the National Archives.

Immediately following the release, the online traffic to our website was astounding.  Within … [ Read all ]

A New Presidential Library

Written on: March 29, 2012 | 2 Comments

On Tuesday of this week I had a chance to visit the construction site of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas, Texas.  Some 700 workers were onsite at the time, inside and outside, to bring this latest addition to the National Archives in on schedule in April 2013.  This facility will house more than 70 million pages of paper documents, 43,000 artifacts (primarily foreign and domestic gifts to the President and First Lady) and an immense audiovisual archive including more than 4 million photographs.

Of special significance is that digital component of the library which includes some 210 million email messages!  We began collecting email during the Ronald Reagan administration and have about 8 million from that administration and 20 million from the William Clinton White House.

The new Library and Museum was designed by architect Robert Stern and the landscaping designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh and the intended interplay between inside and outside spaces is truly magnificent.  The acreage will include a variety of Texas specific landscapes and a cistern currently under construction will collect rainwater for natural irrigation of the space.

More detail is available at www.georgewbushlibrary.gov

View the live webcam to monitor construction activity at www.manhattanconstructiongroup.com/manhattan-construction/projects/webcams/george-w-bush-presidential-center[ Read all ]

Nazi Looting Documentation

Written on: March 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

In Dallas this week I accepted two photo albums documenting artwork and furniture stolen by German troops in Paris.  The albums were created under Hermann Goering’s direction by Alfred Rosenberg who led the Nazi agency, Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) and served as pick lists for Adolph Hitler.  Hitler intended to create a museum in Austria.

39 of the albums were discovered in May 1945 at Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and served as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials.  The trial’s documentation is in the custody of the National Archives (www.archives.gov/research/holocaust).  The albums are meticulous records indicating where they were stolen—invaluable provenance documentation for restitution claims.

Through the work of Robert Edsel and the Monuments Men Foundation, four more albums have been discovered and added to the collection.  The albums were taken as souvenirs by American troops when they left Germany and discovered after the deaths of the soldiers.

The Monuments Men Foundation, recipient of the National Humanities Medal in November 2007, was established to carry on the mission of the original monuments men—museum directors, curators, art historians and educators, architects, artists, and librarians who volunteered “to protect the great cultural treasures of western civilization from the destruction of war and theft by Adolph Hitler and the Nazis.”  Robert Edsel’s tireless efforts have not only celebrated the accomplishments of the original group but kept … [ Read all ]

Happy Sunshine Week!

Written on: March 12, 2012 | 3 Comments

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 have it … [ Read all ]

Yes We Scan Again! The Archives chats with voters on a “We the People” teleconference

Written on: February 6, 2012 | 4 Comments

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 as hand (fyi … [ Read all ]

Thinking About the Future

Written on: January 31, 2012 | 8 Comments

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 modern archives. And by savvy, I
  • [ Read all ]

Becoming a Citizen

Written on: December 23, 2011 | 3 Comments

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 story of … [ Read all ]

Annual Archivist’s Awards Ceremony

Written on: December 14, 2011 | 1 Comment

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 list of your accomplishments over the … [ Read all ]

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.

Details:

Friday, November 4, at 7 p.m.
William G. McGowan Theater

Seventh … [ Read all ]