On April 1, 1940 over 120,000 census takers fanned out across the United States to begin conducting the 1940 census. Over the next several weeks they would enumerate over 131,000,000 residents of the country from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to families living in the remotest areas of the nation.
Genealogists, social scientists, historians, and others, as well as the staff here at the National Archives, are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to discover what life was like as the country neared the end of the Great Depression. The 1940 census reflects the previous decade with questions intended to track migration and employment during the Depression. For the first time the Bureau of the Census employed sampling when conducting the census. Approximately five percent of the population was asked supplemental questions including ones about military service, the birthplace of parents, and, for women, marital status and the number of children.
On Monday morning, I was pleased to co-host the National Archives’ ceremony along with my friend, Robert Groves, Director of the Census Bureau. Together, we officially opened the 1940 census to the public. For the first time, we released the 3.8 million pages of the census online, which was the largest online release of a single series of digitized records by the National Archives.
Immediately following the release, the online traffic to our website was astounding. Within … [ Read all ]
In Dallas this week I accepted two photo albums documenting artwork and furniture stolen by German troops in Paris. The albums were created under Hermann Goering’s direction by Alfred Rosenberg who led the Nazi agency, Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) and served as pick lists for Adolph Hitler. Hitler intended to create a museum in Austria.
39 of the albums were discovered in May 1945 at Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and served as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials. The trial’s documentation is in the custody of the National Archives (www.archives.gov/research/holocaust). The albums are meticulous records indicating where they were stolen—invaluable provenance documentation for restitution claims.
Through the work of Robert Edsel and the Monuments Men Foundation, four more albums have been discovered and added to the collection. The albums were taken as souvenirs by American troops when they left Germany and discovered after the deaths of the soldiers.
The Monuments Men Foundation, recipient of the National Humanities Medal in November 2007, was established to carry on the mission of the original monuments men—museum directors, curators, art historians and educators, architects, artists, and librarians who volunteered “to protect the great cultural treasures of western civilization from the destruction of war and theft by Adolph Hitler and the Nazis.” Robert Edsel’s tireless efforts have not only celebrated the accomplishments of the original group but kept … [ Read all ]
As I have been traveling to meet National Archives staff I have made an effort to meet with students and faculty at the graduate programs around the country to educate them about who we are and where we are headed. My goal is to excite them about opportunities to work in the Federal Government, especially my agency. So the ALISE program was a great opportunity to meet with a group of students, faculty, and deans—all in one room—and to encourage them to think about their teaching and research programs and how they meet the needs of the next generation of information professionals.
What I have been telling students is that we are looking for:
People with a broader background than was the case when I was a graduate student. In addition to history, archives and library science, other subject matter areas are important. Above all, we want people who can connect archival work with real life experiences.
Technical savvy is a given to work in a modern archives. And by savvy, I
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
On Friday the first Plenary Session of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) was hosted at the National Archives. The Project was launched in October 2010 at a workshop convened at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and was the inspiration of Robert Darnton, the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the Harvard University Library. The intent was to work toward the creation of “an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources that would draw on the nation’s living heritage from libraries, universities, archives, and museums in order to educate, inform, and empower everyone in the current and future generations.” A lofty goal, indeed!
In the intervening months since that original meeting, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, with funding from the Sloan Foundation, has taken on responsibilities for moving the project forward. A Secretariat and Steering Committee have been formed, as well as six work streams—audience and participation, content and scope, financial/business models, governance, legal issues, and technical aspects.
This past Thursday the work streams met for the first time at George Washington University to discuss their work, create scope statements and identify their priorities. Most importantly, each group identified and shared their overlap areas with the whole group.
On Friday more than 300 government leaders, librarians, technologist, makers, students, and others interested members of the public “occupied” the National … [ Read all ]
Over the past year and a half, I’ve written a lot about how the work of the National Archives is based on the belief that citizens have the right to see, examine, and learn from the records that document the actions of their government. The following are only a few of the areas where the National Archives is making significant contributions to strengthen open government and our democracy.
Records Management The backbone of a transparent and accountable government is good records management. Good government cannot be held accountable if it does not preserve – and cannot find – its records. The exponential growth of electronic records poses multiple challenges. The National Archives will continue to play a leadership role in finding and developing cost-effective IT solutions needed to meet the electronic records management challenges found in Federal agencies today.
National Declassification Center The National Declassification Center (NDC) is strengthening open government by improving coordination among agencies and streamlining the declassification process throughout the Federal Government. The NDC is leading a multi-agency effort to address the backlog of 400 million pages previously accessioned … [ Read all ]
It has been quite a week. Tuesday afternoon an earthquake rattled many of our facilities around the Northeast. Little known fault lines named Lakeside and Spotsylvania near Mineral, VA, the epicenter, made themselves known over several days with at least seven aftershocks.
The Washington National Regions Records Center in Suitland, MD was the hardest hit with damage to the masonry at the tops of the fire walls and in the fire egress stairs. The building is closed until all safety issues are addressed.
Other damage to NARA facilities included some loosened mortar in the Rotunda and a cracked wall at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue; a cracked window, cold storage vault disruptions, and minor parking garage damage at College Park; and a damaged panel in the pavilion at the JFK Library.
Certainly nothing like our friends on the West Coast have come to take for granted, but powerful enough to leave lasting memories.
And just when we thought it was safe to go back to work, Hurricane Irene heads our way with heavy winds and downpours. The FDR Library server room in Hyde Park, NY had a significant leak and lost power. The staff at our Market Street facility in Philadelphia report some flooding and puddles of water in the basement. And one minor roof leak in Suitland.
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