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:
October is American Archives month, a time to raise awareness about the value of archives and archivists and to celebrate that work. One of the ways we are participating this year will be to discuss the work of the Archivist of the United States.
As a kickoff to American Archives Month, I invite you to join us on Google+ for an Ask the Archivist Hangout. I’ll be answering your questions on Tuesday, September 24, 2–2:30 pm, ET, from my office in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. And if you’re not able to watch it live, the hangout will be posted on YouTube so you can check it out later.
So, what will we talk about? That’s up to you! Send me your questions about what it means to be the Archivist of the United States by posting them in the comments to this blog post, tweet them with the #AskAOTUS hashtag, or post them on Google+ with the same hashtag. I’m ready to answer any questions you might have and I will even show you around my office. I’m eager to hang out with you on September 24!
Original Image: Photograph of Radio Broadcast for the March of Dimes with Margaret Truman and Others, 01/21/1948, National Archives Identifier 199642
Remember: The Hangout is on Tuesday, September 24, 2:00–2:30 pm, ET.
Robert D.W. Connor, the President of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and recently retired first Archivist of the United States, in his address to the Society at their annual meeting in 1942 read a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt who had been awarded an honorary membership in the organization. He called for “…the duplication of records by modern processes…”
Letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Robert Diggs Wembly Connor, 13 February 1942, Folder 668, Box 8 in the R. D. W. Connor Papers #2427, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
FDR acknowledged the magnitude of effort required: “This involves, of course, a vast amount of work because of the volume of federal, state and local archives of all kinds—but I think that a broad plan would meet with hearty public support if it could be properly publicized.”
Which brings to mind the language in our draft Strategic Plan, one of the objectives under our goal of Making Access Happen. In an effort to make an ever-increasing number of records available to the public we have promised to streamline processes, innovate, and collaborate with others to significantly increase the number of NARA records that are available to the public. In fact, we have been so bold as to suggest that we “Digitize all analog archival … [ Read all ]
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