When we talk about economic value, we are not talking about the appraised value or the replacement value of our records. Historically, we have talked about economic value in terms of the large number of jobs and economic activity that NARA generates. Examples include the local economic activity generated around our public programs; the numerous professional researchers and authors who write non-fiction and best-selling works of fiction based on NARA records; popular films that came to fruition only because of the existence and hard work of the National Archives.
“Maximize NARA’s Value to the Nation” charts a course forward from this legacy. The course forward supports our transition to digital government, so that we can quickly and efficiently provide public access to our records. We want to ensure our historical government data is accessible by customers when they need it and in the format or technology platform that is easy for them to use. And when we talk about economic value today, we are not talking about commercial value only. We are expanding this idea beyond a simple commercial concept, to consider the social valuation of our returns on investment. These are opportunities to … [ Read all ]
The second of our new strategic goals is to “Connect with Customers.”
Having spent most of my career working with the public, customer service is a passion of mine. In my personal life I am always looking for exemplars—places where I am dazzled by attention to service, places which learn from their customers, places which put their customers at the center of the service equation.
At the National Archives, we connect with customers in a multitude of ways: nationwide, face-to-face, over the phone, across the desk, in our research rooms, in the classroom and of course, online. We have a wide-variety of customer communities, including educators, historians, genealogists, researchers, veterans and now groups such as civic hackers, Wikipedians and many more. We need to become more agile, more creative in connecting with them – whoever they are, wherever they are, to deliver what they want when they want it.
But connection is not just about delivery, it is about engaging with the public in ways we have not done in the past. Much of the work we have been doing with Open Government has been about connecting with customers in new ways. In speaking about Open Government, President Obama said, “Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made. It means … [ Read all ]
The first of our new strategic goals is to “Make Access Happen.” Increasingly, access means digital, online access. Our first goal has one objective, to make our records available to the public in digital form to ensure that anyone can explore, discover and learn from our records.
Here are a few of the initiatives listed under this goal:
First, we want to complete the long journey of describing our holdings in our online catalog. We launched our first agency-wide online catalog in 2003, and now we are within just a few years of being able to say that over 95% of our records are described at the series level. Currently we are at 83% and going strong. Archivists across the agency continue to provide basic archival metadata to the catalog so that people around the world can know what we have.
We will also accelerate the processing of analog and digital records to quickly make our records available to the public. Foundational technology for that effort will be the development of a digital processing environment that will allow archival, digitization and description staff to work in an environment that supports and enhances accelerated processing of the records.
We want to digitize our records and to make them available online.
During my years at MIT and Duke, Commencement was always a special day for me. It put into perspective all of the work during the previous year to ensure that students and faculty had the information resources and support they needed in their coursework and research—a morning to celebrate the launch of another class of educated men and women.
So, I am taking this assignment seriously. I will certainly be taking FDR’s advice to heart—“Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”
But I need your help. What advice would you give this graduating class? What special message would you deliver to undergraduates? Graduate students? Parents and other family members? Faculty and staff of the university? Send me your ideas!
Over the past eighteen months, the staff and I at the National Archives have been working diligently to develop our next Strategic Plan. Many meetings, long conversations, Town Halls, thoughtful emails, and loads of feedback from staff and stakeholders have gone into the refinement of the strategy that will be the roadmap for our Agency through 2018. Along the way, I have encouraged staff to stretch their vision and to be bold.
Our Plan has four goals:
Make Access Happen:Increasingly this means digital, online access.
Connect with Customers:Wherever they are, however they want it.
Maximize NARA’s Value to the Nation:Through the use and reuse of our digital content.
Build Our Future through Our People:The most important goal of all.
Over the next couple of weeks I will be blogging on each of the goals to let you in on some of the ideas behind each of them. In the meantime, take a look at our new Strategic Plan.… [ Read all ]
In the video below, Jennifer Pahlka, U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer, invites you to make a difference and serve your country by applying to become a Presidential Innovation Fellow. This is the third round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows. Projects from the first two rounds included: making government data more openly available, programs to assist Veterans, streamlining processes for citizens to find information and government services, and projects to assist American businesses. You can find out more about these first and second round projects on the Innovation Fellows website.
We are excited that this is the first time a National Archives project is featured! For our project, “Crowdsourcing Tools to Unlock Government Records,” innovators will lead the open development of crowdsourcing tools for the public to easily contribute to government records at the National Archives and improve the effectiveness of crowdsourcing across the government.
Presidential Innovation Fellows will build upon our crowdsourcing efforts, which have included the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, transcription projects, scan-a-thons, and collaboration with Wikipedia, to usher in a new generation of open development of crowdsourcing tools.
Do you want to make a difference in government? Apply today!
Ken Price, the Hillegass University Professor of American Literature and co-editor of The Walt Whitman Archive at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, needs our help. Mining the records of the Office of the Attorney General here at the National Archives, Price has discovered 3000 documents in Whitman’s hand. His discovery is described in a 2011 Prologue article, “Whitman, Walt, Clerk.”
Portrait of Walt Whitman taken at Mathew Brady’s studio in Washington, D.C. between 1865 and 1867. National Archives Identifier 526439
It seems likely that additional documents exist in archives scattered around the country. The items Price located were written between July 1865 and December 1871, when Whitman worked as a clerk in the Office of the Attorney General. These documents were identified through recognition of Whitman’s handwriting, though in a few rare cases Whitman did include his initials or signature. The documents preserved here at the National Archives were internal office copies of correspondence sent out to a wide array of officials in various states and territories. Although Whitman was often charged with creating the copy of record for the office, he also inscribed outgoing letters. I offered to help Price with his ongoing treasure hunt and I hope you will help us with this search since there may be hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of additional documents in Whitman’s handwriting that have gone undetected … [ Read all ]
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.
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 ]
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,” National Archives Identifier 195912
The National Archives’ participation in this exciting project marks a new opportunity to share our … [ Read all ]
In May 2011, Dominic McDevitt-Parks joined the National Archives as our first Wikipedian-In-Residence. This put the National Archives at the forefront of many cultural institutions in partnering with the Wikimedia community.
Working for the National Archives as a part-time student intern, our Wikipedian led ground-breaking efforts for the agency. His automated-upload project provided 100,000 digital images of NARA’s records on the Wikimedia Commons for use in Wikipedia articles. He coordinated and hosted Wikimedia crowdsourcing projects that included digitization and transcription of records. He acted as a bridge between NARA and the Wikimedia community, bringing Wikipedians into the Archives, and ensuring that NARA staff attended and presented at the 2012 Wikimania Conference, as well as hosting local gatherings of Wikimedians at the National Archives.
The results? The top 4,000 Wikipedia articles that include NARA digital copies are on track to receive one billion views in 2013. That’s why it is important to work with the Wikimedia community, they share a common mission with the Archives, to provide world class access.
Dominic’s work with us at that time generated a great deal of buzz, including the following:
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