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 ]
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 ]
In September 2011, the White House launched an online petition web site, We the People, where anyone can post an idea asking the Obama administration to take action on a range of issues, get signatures, and get a response from their government.
It’s an experiment in democracy, which is generating new ideas and improving on old ideas every day. One of those rising ideas is “Yes We Scan.”
Yes We Scan is an effort by the Center for American Progress and Public.Resource.org to promote digitization of all government information in an effort to make it more accessible to the world.
Did you know that many grade school children aren’t taught cursive handwriting anymore and can’t read cursive? Help us transcribe records and guarantee that school children can make use of our documents. I have transcribed one myself!
Recognize someone or someplace in one of our photographs? Add a tag!
Have a photograph in your personal collection you want to contribute? Upload it!
Have you been researching in the records? Share what you’ve discovered! Write an article and post it to the Dashboard so others can learn from your work.
This is very much a work in progress and we are interested in your ideas for improving the Dashboard. Other activities we might include? Send us your suggestions or comments: email@example.com.
I am HUGE fan of the wisdom of the crowd. Don’t disappoint me!… [ Read all ]
During the transformation planning process last year, we began using a variety of social media tools to invite staff discussion and participation in transforming the agency. Staff participation has been and continues to be critical in providing new ideas as well as feedback for our transformation initiatives. As we continue to work on transforming the agency, we are carefully investing in new social media tools to sustain and increase staff collaboration and participation.
One of the tools we are preparing to roll out to staff over the first half of 2012 is a tool we are calling the Internal Collaboration Network (ICN). What is it? The ICN is a social business software tool for the staff to more easily communicate and work together. We are using the Jive Social Business software platform to make it happen. Check out this short video that previews how this kind of software is helping NASA today:
Today I am writing in from Toledo, Spain. I am pleased to be attending the 2011 Conference of the International Council on Archives (ICA). This morning I spoke on a panel with the National Archivist of Belgium, Karel Velle, and Director-General Arquivo Nacional Brazil, Jaime Antunes da Silva, for the ICA’s first plenary meeting on Open Government.
One of the contributions of the National Archives to the Administration’s National Action Plan for Open Government is to explore hosting a meeting of the national archivists of the eight founding members of the International Open Government Partnership to discuss our vital role in ensuring open government at the national level. Today’s meeting is a first step in that direction.
Here’s what I told the gathering:
Open Government Panel—the View from Washington
The philosophy of Open Government is embedded in the creation of the United States. Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, writing from Paris in 1789, said: “Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government…that whenever things go so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”
From the first day of his administration, President Obama has made Open Government a priority. In a meeting with his senior staff on the day after his inauguration in January of 2009 he said: “Transparency and the
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.
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.
On June 15th we launched our tagging feature on the Online Public Access (OPA) prototype in another “citizen archivist” venture. Convinced that our users know a lot about the records we are stewarding, this is an opportunity to contribute that knowledge. As you search the catalog, you are invited to tag any archival description, person, or organization name records with the keywords or labels that are meaningful to you. We expect that crowdsourcing tagging will enhance the quality of the content and make it easier for people to find what they are looking for. A description of this new feature can be found on the NARAtions blog, along with a link to the registration page.
In the first month we have had more than 1,000 tags contributed!
Our online contributor “islandlibrarian” recognized Nantucket Island in the description of the series that includes the following document:
User “zarr” added Four Freedoms to this image:
User “sschlang” knows Wisconsin and added Manitowoc, Wisconsin to this image:
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:
We have provided links to other websites because they have information that may interest you. Links are not an endorsement by the National Archives of the opinions, products, or services presented on these sites, or any sites linked to it. The National Archives is not responsible for the legality or accuracy of information on these sites, or for any costs incurred while using these sites.