The Open Government Partnership, launched in the summer of 2011 can trace its roots to President Obama’s challenge to the members of the United Nations General Assembly in September of 2010—a challenge to work together to make all governments more transparent, collaborative, and participatory. The Partnership has grown from eight to more than 60 nations representing more than 1,000 commitments to improve the governance of more than two billion people around the world.
The United States issued its first Open Government National Action Plan in September of 2011 and the National Archives participated in the process. In December of 2013, the White House issued the Second Open Government National Action Plan, committing to work with the public and civil society organizations to implement initiatives to increase public integrity, to manage resources more effectively, and to improve public services.
I’m pleased (and proud) to report that five of the ten action items addressing public integrity have the National Archives written all over them!
The National Archives’ Strategic Plan includes a simple, but audacious initiative: to digitize our analog records and make them available for online public access. We have over 12 billion pages of records, so yes, this is our moon shot.
To achieve this goal, we know we need to think in radically new ways about our processes, and we have started by creating a new digitization strategy. From the time we published our 2008 digitization strategy through today, we have scanned over 230 million objects. This is a huge number, but we have a long road ahead. Our new strategy pushes us further.
We know we cannot do all of this by ourselves. We will continue to collaborate and build on efforts with private and public organizations to digitize records, as well as branch out to citizen archivists, other federal agencies and institutions worldwide. We will develop clear processes and technologies to support a workflow from staff digitization efforts, as well as ensure that records arriving at NARA are accompanied by standardized metadata, and make them available online in a shorter period of time.
We will set measures and track progress for each of these approaches, because we believe we can make digital access happen and we … [ Read all ]
While the event was part of the YFS’s membership drive, it was an opportunity for me to thank the attendees for their service to the nation and to single out the members of our oversight and appropriations committees for special thanks. In my 14 hearing appearances to date (but, who’s counting?!) I have been impressed with the knowledge, expertise, and passion which these people bring to their job.
Many of the attendees have visited the National Archives with their Senator or Representative and to a person have left here inspired by the history they have relived through the original records. To simulate that experience last night several dozen facsimiles were around the room—the 1868 treasury note for $7.2m with which purchased Alaska, the First Continental Congress’ Agreement of Secrecy signed in 1775 to protect the Founders, the bus diagram showing where Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks was seated on that fateful day, and my letter to President Eisenhower asking for … [ Read all ]
In the four years since we published our first plan, we have demonstrated our contribution to strengthening the principles of open government. We have implemented more than 90 actions to improve transparency, participation, and collaboration.
In our new plan we focus our efforts to engage the public in more than 160 external projects on more than 15 social media platforms, as well as through our public events, educational programs, Research Services, and Presidential Libraries.
At the same time we are working to improve internal communications and employee satisfaction, creating a cohort of managers and supervisors with a common ethos that supports the mission of the agency. And we have empowered Special Emphasis Program Managers across the agency to help create an environment that supports fair and open opportunities for all employees regardless of their differences.
Our Flagship Initiative, “Innovate to Make Access Happen,” describes our digitization, description, and online access efforts for the next two years. Check it out and track us as we develop a program to digitize our analog records, expand digitization partnerships, and update our digitization strategy.
In the next two years, I want the National Archives to become a leader in innovation and transform the way people think about archival collections! Join us in the journey.… [ Read all ]
The Managing Government Records Directive (OMB M12-18) charges the National Archives and Records Administration to lead the efforts to modernize records management in the Federal Government.
The Directive focuses on two main goals:
agencies will require electronic recordkeeping by managing all their email in an accessible electronic format by the end of 2016 and managing all their permanent records as electronic records by the end of 2019.
agencies must demonstrate compliance with all records management laws and regulations.
I talked about the importance of the Directive in a post when it was issued in 2012. Since then, we passed several milestones. Agencies have identified Senior Agency Officials to lead records management in their programs and I have met with them to discuss the challenge and collaborate on solutions. And they have reported on their progress.
Staff members Meg Phillips, Don Rosen, and Chief Records Officer Paul Wester mingle with vendors at “The Managing Government Records Directive: A Grand Challenge for Industry” event in September 2013.
In September, we hosted a successful industry day for the Federal information management community and vendors with automated electronic records management solutions and services. It was an opportunity to meet and discuss the solutions and tools needed to meet the goals of the Directive.
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 ]
Yesterday we were privileged to host two special advance screenings of The Monuments Men, one especially for the staff of the National Archives. Thanks to the generosity of Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, and Robert Edsel, author of The Monuments Men upon which the film is based for making this possible. The film will open in theaters around the country on February 7th.
In our East Rotunda Gallery, through the 19th of February, our featured document is an Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) album that records artwork looted by the Nazis during the Second World War – one of a series of photo albums created for Adolph Hitler’s benefit to document the Nazis’ systematic looting of cultural treasures and to serve as a pick list for his planned museum in Linz after the war. The Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program recruited the group known as the Monuments Men (although there were also Monuments Women), and they used these albums to return treasures to their rightful owners. The volume on display is one of several recently discovered albums donated to the National Archives by Robert Edsel, the president of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art. The newly discovered albums supplement the 40 already in the custody of the National Archives.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, accompanied by … [ Read all ]
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