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 ]
The new David M. Rubenstein Gallery, hosting the “Records of Rights” permanent exhibit, which discusses the rights of women, immigrants, and African Americans.
David Rubenstein is a passionate advocate for the National Archives and for educating all Americans about our shared history. His many gifts to us and to other cultural institutions have done much to promote public awareness of our nation’s history. And we are deeply grateful to him for his generous gift to the Foundation for the National Archives that made possible this new gallery, which showcases the long struggle to secure and exercise individual rights for all Americans.
Ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Rubenstein Gallery. From left to right: President of the Foundation’s Board of Directors A’Lelia Bundles, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, David M. Rubenstein, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. (Photo by Margot Schulman from the Foundation for the National Archives)
David is a firm believer in the power of public-private partnerships and I am thankful for the support from our Senate and House Appropriations Committees in matching his gift for this project.
The centerpiece of “Records of Rights” is the 1297 Magna Carta, which David purchased five years ago because he believed the one copy of this … [ 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 ]
With the opening of the “Discovery and Recovery” exhibit, I had a chance last week to thank many of the National Archives staff who made it possible. And it truly took a village to make this happen! Staff from just about every corner of the Agency contributed—preservation and conservation, security, legal, communications, exhibits, digital engagement, innovation, digital preservation, holdings protection, programs, and facilities. Truly a team effort.
Photo of the “Discovery and Recovery” exhibit in the Lawrence O’Brien Gallery. Photograph from the National Archives’ Instagram account: instagram.com/usnatarchives
In my remarks to the assembled staff I tried to convey my pride in their work, but also my pride in the passion and commitment they bring to the job every day. And I was reminded of the closing lines of Donna Tartt’s new novel, The Goldfinch, about the rescue of a painting:
“…if disaster and oblivion have followed this painting down through time—so too has love. Insofar as it is immortal (and it is) I have a small, bright, immutable part in that immortality. It exists; and it keeps on existing. And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along … [ 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 ]
This afternoon, the National Archives launched Founders Online—a tool for seamless searching across the Papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. Our National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) has been funding these projects in paper for some time. Working with Rotunda at the University of Virginia Press and the editors of the six papers project, Founders Online was created with NHPRC funding to provide simultaneous searching across all six collections at once.
Through Founders Online you can now trace the shaping of the nation, the extraordinary clash of ideas, the debates and discussions carried out through drafts and final versions of public documents as well as the evolving thoughts and principles shared in personal correspondence, diaries, and journals. This beta version of Founders Online contains over 119,000 documents, and new documents will be added to the site on a continual basis.
You can see first-hand the close working partnership between George Washington and Alexander Hamilton from their time in the Revolutionary War to Hamilton’s draft of Washington’s Farewell Address. Or read John Adams’ description of Congress as a place where “There is so much Wit, Sense, Learning, Acuteness, Subtilty, Eloquence, etc. among fifty Gentlemen, each of whom has been habituated to lead and guide in his own Province, that an immensity of Time, is … [ Read all ]
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