Archive for the ‘Participation’ Category
At the National Archives and Records Administration, our unique role as the nation’s records keeper is critical to the success of the President’s open government initiative. Our work serves American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, ensuring that the people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. I think this role is the most important, but then again, I might be a little too biased.
As the Archivist of the United States, I’m concerned that records management is not taken more seriously by Federal departments and agencies. In my last post, I pointed to specific concerns found in a recent self-assessment report, including improper destruction of records. I’m also concerned that more Americans aren’t troubled by this state of affairs. One reason why Americans might not be more concerned is that they aren’t really aware of what happens to government records and why they are important.
I think it’s time we create new ways to tell our story. Transparency, participation, and collaboration can help us change the way we talk about our work and our institution. I’m challenging us to take a new approach and start communicating in more collaborative ways.
Recently, I discovered the website, “Today’s Document (Illustrated)” by Jon White. Jon has taken our “Today’s Document” RSS feed and develops an illustration that is somehow related to … [ Read all ]
Have you heard the news? This week, the Library of Congress announced that they are acquiring the digital archive of public tweets. On April 14, @librarycongress tweeted, “Library to acquire ENTIRE Twitter archives — All public tweets, ever, since March 2006!” Congratulations, Library of Congress.
In the world of electronic records, this is a historic announcement. In my first post, I said “electronic records are now a fundamental part of our documentary record.” The donation of billions of tweets to the Library of Congress is a profound example of the changing fabric of our records.
You might wonder why the National Archives did not acquire the tweets. Our primary purpose is to acquire, preserve, and make available for research the most valuable records of the Federal Government. Because tweets aren’t government records (although tweets of federal agencies can be), the Twitter archive is much better served by the Library of Congress as a cultural institution. At the National Archives, we are working with over 250 Federal agencies and their components to identify and schedule Federal records, some of these most certainly are tweets. Our records appraisal process identifies those records that are valuable enough to be permanently preserved.
There’s a common misconception that the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress are one in the same. This probably stems from the fact … [ Read all ]
Recently, NASA launched an online project called “Be A Martian.” At first glance, this website is a highly sophisticated public education tool that creates an online experience to connect the public with NASA’s mission. On closer inspection, this is also an important crowdsourcing project. The public is invited to participate as “citizen scientists” by aligning Mars imagery and counting craters. The Martian Map room is an intriguing interface where the public is invited to actually add value to the vast amount of data from several Mars missions. Do you see where I’m going with this?
While citizen science isn’t new, we are only now starting to create online platforms for citizens to make substantive contributions, regardless of location. The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) North American Bird Phenology Program has 1,754 online volunteers who have transcribed 228,479 bird migration cards. The collection contains six million paper migration cards, representing the contributions of citizen scientists in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The USGS Staff have developed a program to tap the enthusiasm and willingness of 21st century online citizen scientists to transcribe this data, which scientists are now analyzing to see how climate change affects migration. This is an example of citizens contributing in very interesting ways, ways in which I can see “citizen archivists” contributing to our mission.
At the National Archives and Records Administration, we have … [ Read all ]
The Pew Research Center recently published a report, “The Impact of the Internet on Institutions in the Future,” in which it found that 72 percent of experts agreed with the statement:
By 2020, innovative forms of online cooperation will result in significantly more efficient and responsive governments, business, non-profits, and other mainstream institutions.
That optimism agreed to by the experts indicates their belief that the internet will prompt institutional change, but is contrasted with the same experts’ concerns that:
Government agencies are cumbersome and resistant to change. The pace of progress towards openness and responsiveness will be slower than anyone would hope.
In my first few months on the job, I’ve seen some resistance to change, but that has been outmatched by what I see as a wellspring of enthusiasm for changes to our agency. One aspect of my job is to uncover and unleash talent across the agency. I am happy to say that I’ve already seen the passion of our staff and I know we can change our course and exceed expectations.
In this digital age, we have the opportunity to work and communicate more efficiently, effectively, and in completely new ways. This will require a change not only in our processes, but also in the culture of the National Archives and Records Administration. Working on the Open Government Plan (PDF) has helped … [ Read all ]