Archive for the ‘Participation’ Category

GLAMorous

Written on: May 25, 2011 | 2 Comments

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 ]

Crowdsourcing and Citizen Archivist Program

Written on: May 19, 2011 | 3 Comments

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:

Jessica Zelt (North American Bird Phenology Program), Matthew Knutzen (New York Public Library), Darla Adams (Ancestry.com), and Meredith Stewart (National Archives, moderator)

I encourage you to watch the video of the full program below.

Try your hand at these and other types of crowdsourcing projects and let us know what types of projects you would like to see the National Archives develop in the future.… [ Read all ]

Together, We Can Turn Lost into Found

Written on: May 5, 2011 | 1 Comment

Artwork, silver, books, religious objects, antiquities, archival documents, and carvings. These are just a few of the types of cultural property that were stolen, looted, seized, forcibly sold, or otherwise lost to the Nazis beginning in the 1930s and continuing through World War II. After the war, documents about this cultural property were scattered across Europe and the United States. Families and researchers have often found it a difficult and expensive challenge to find the records. The 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, the 2000 Vilnius Forum Declaration and the 2009 Terezin Declaration called on the international community to provide greater archival access to these records.

Today, colleagues from five other national archives as well as five national and international research organizations joined me at the National Archives to launch a new international research portal for records related to Nazi-era cultural property.  These archival institutions, along with expert national and international organizations, are working together to extend public access to the widely-dispersed records through a single internet portal, which provides access to descriptions and digitized copies of over 2.4 million records by linking researchers to the search interfaces of each participating organization. The portal will enable families to research their losses, provenance researchers to locate important documentation, and historians to study newly accessible materials on the history of this period.

Signers of the International [ Read all ]

Sunshine Week 2011

Written on: March 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

This week, public interest groups, media organizations, government agencies, and citizens celebrate Sunshine Week and the Annual Freedom of Information Day. As part of Sunshine Week the White House has launched a new “Good Government” portal as a resource for citizens. At public events and congressional hearings this week, leadership of the National Archives — including myself — are participating in the dialogue around open government and freedom of information.

At the National Archives, open government is an ongoing commitment to strengthen transparency, participation, and collaboration in order to better serve the American people.

The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at the National Archives is an important symbol of both the Obama Administration’s commitment to Open Government and Congress’s vision of a better Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). OGIS serves the American people by providing mediation services to resolve FOIA disputes as well as reviewing agencies’ FOIA policies, procedures, and compliance. Their role is to advocate for the proper administration of the Freedom of Information Act itself.

For Sunshine Week, I encourage you to read the recently released OGIS report, “The First Year: Building Bridges Between FOIA Requesters and Federal Agencies,” as well as check out the Department of Justice’s new FOIA website.

ogis-report

Sunshine Week is also an opportunity to discuss the improvements we’ve made in your ability to access the … [ Read all ]

Celebrating 10 Years of Wikipedia

Written on: March 15, 2011 | 11 Comments

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 ]

A National Archives of the Future

Written on: February 3, 2011 | 6 Comments

In his State of the Union address last week, President Barack Obama said, “We can’t win the future with a government of the past.” He called for a reorganization of government to give the people “a government that’s more competent and more efficient.”

At the National Archives, we are meeting the President’s call to action. Charting the Course is our plan for reinventing the National Archives to meet the demands we face in the digital age.

Our plan was developed with the help of over 40 staff members working on the Transformation Launch Team and in consultation with hundreds of National Archives’ staff. It represents the changes we must make to better serve the American people.

How are we going to become more competent and more efficient?

We’re creating a new culture based on common values at the National Archives. We’re restructuring the agency to better serve the American people and the government. And we are living the principles of Open Government — transparency, participation, and collaboration.

The chart below represents the future structure of the National Archives. This is not a “rearrangement of the deck chairs,” but a bold new way of positioning ourselves to face the future.

future-nara-structure

While the full story is told in Charting the Course, here are just a few of the new offices and positions you should expect to … [ Read all ]

Change You Can See and Experience

Written on: December 20, 2010 | 9 Comments

Change is not easy, but NARA staff members are doing it with enthusiam and we are seeing the results.

Wireless internet is now available for researchers who use our Washington, DC and College Park, MD facilities. This service is free and available to registered researchers.

On Monday, we launched the redesigned Archives.gov. With your help, we have made it easier for researchers, veterans, teachers, and visitors to find the information they are looking for. This summer, you voted and we listened.

archivesgov-redesign

The Redesigned Archives.gov

Later this month, we will launch Online Public Access, a prototype for a new search and display in the research section of Archives.gov. We want to encourage you to experience the new search interface and send your feedback to search@nara.gov.

online-public-access

Coming Soon: Online Public Access

This month, we will also release the first National Archives’ mobile application called “Today’s Document,” based on the popular feature on Archives.gov.

todays-document-mobile-app

Also Coming Soon: Today’s Document Mobile App

And in January, NARA staff will begin to use an internal collaboration platform. This platform will use social-media based software to enable staff to better communicate, collaborate, and build communities.

We will see even more changes in this coming year.

Our Transformation Launch Team is engaging staff in an agency-wide reorganization and an identifcation of core values. The team is also working on substantial … [ Read all ]

Open to Change

Written on: October 26, 2010 | 74 Comments

Since my swearing in as the 10th Archivist of the United States less than a year ago, we’ve taken important steps to become a more open, transparent, participatory, and collaborative agency.

I’m proud of our accomplishments:

We’ve made a great start, but we have a lot more to do if we are to be well-positioned to meet the challenges we face in the 21st century.

It’s time for us to step out of our comfort zones and rethink how we operate as an agency.

A few months ago, I charged a task force to draft a plan for agency transformation. A draft plan was circulated internally for staff input. I’d like to thank the NARA staff who submitted hundreds of thoughtful comments on the proposed plan. Their insight was indispensable in the development of the final report.

Last week their final report, “A Charter for Change,” was issued to staff. The report outlines a new organizational model for the National Archives. These organizational changes are driven by a set of guiding principles. These are the pillars of how we … [ Read all ]

Leading an Open Archives

Written on: September 25, 2010 | 4 Comments

Recently, I read an article and book by Charlene Li, an expert on social media and former analyst and vice president at Forrester Research. In the book, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, she states that greater openness in organizations is inevitable and is a consequence of the increasing use of social media.

As your customers and employees become more adept at using social and other emerging technologies, they will push you to be more open, urging you to let go in ways in which you may not be comfortable. Your natural inclination may be to fight this trend, to see it as a fad that you hope will fade and simply go away. It won’t. Not only is this trend inevitable, but it also is going to force you and your organization to be more open than you are today.

It’s evident that social media is breaking down barriers to communication and empowering citizens and employees to speak their minds freely. Broadcasting our opinions, views, and expressing our personality, is simple and easy on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. Li describes this new reality as a “period of fundamental social change akin to the rise of the automobile or the introduction of television.”

Her prescription for managing this new reality is “open leadership,” which means “having the confidence and … [ Read all ]

Civil War Conservation Corps Reaches a Significant Milestone

Written on: August 4, 2010 | 1 Comment

I would like to congratulate the NARA volunteers of the Civil War Conservation Corps (CWCC) on reaching a significant milestone in the preparation of Civil War Widow’s Certificate pension case files for digitization. On June 2, these dedicated citizen archivists completed preparation of the 50,000th file, sending it on its way to the digital cameras and to easy access by researchers.

CWCC members review case files
CWCC members Peggy Pratt, Mary Lou Cole, and Sue Barnard review case files.

(Photo Courtesy of Earl McDonald, National Archives)

Sixteen years ago, in June 1994, the CWCC was launched with a call for volunteers. The recently deceased Budge Weidman answered the call and shepherded the project from the beginning. The volunteers’ work includes assessing the documents of each pension file for conservation and imaging concerns, identifying and arranging the documents, and abstracting key information to create the database that allows researchers to easily find the records they want. They have become expert in Army organization and pension law in the process, not to mention learning what it was like for widows, children, parents, and siblings of Civil War soldiers to carry on after the fighting ended. The members of the CWCC read hundreds, even thousands, of stories documenting ordinary Americans’ experiences of the Civil War in pension files that have often not been touched in more than 100 years.

 Evidence from the pension file of Esther SpringfieldCoroner’s Office letter and [ Read all ]