Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

Happy Public Service Recognition Week!

Written on: May 8, 2013 | 0 Comments

Yesterday we celebrated the accomplishments of National Archives staff across the country in our annual Archivist’s Awards Ceremony.

I read from Senate Resolution 99 which commends public servants for their dedication and continued service to the United States and acknowledging that ” … public service is a noble calling.” I also read from President Obama’s Public Service Recognition Week greetings: “In communities across our country, public servants at the Federal, state, and local levels tirelessly carry out the work of our government. Diligently serving without the expectation of fanfare, they enforce our laws, teach our children, and lay a strong foundation for our Nation’s progress. Our dedicated employees are committed to a cause greater than personal ambition, and each day, they tackle many of our most urgent challenges and help us move closer to a more perfect Union.”

National Archives desk
Photograph of desk installed in National Archives Library, 1950. National Archives Identifier 3493214

 

We created a little internal fanfare yesterday by recognizing staff for protecting and recovering stolen records, for outstanding service and support of our nation’s veterans, for achievement in engaging our citizens, for developing the Presidential Memorandum and Directive on Managing Government Records, for efforts to increase National Declassification Center production, to name just a few of awards tied closely to our Transformation pillars.

We also celebrated long term service milestones of … [ Read all ]

The Spirit of Boston

Written on: April 18, 2013 | 7 Comments

On Monday, April 15, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum suffered a fire. It was quickly managed and extinguished by first responders from the Boston Fire Department and the Boston Police Department. My sincere thanks go to them for their extraordinary efforts. I am grateful that no one was injured.

This fire occurred around the same time as the awful attack in Copley Plaza during the Boston Marathon. Our hearts go out to the victims of that terrible, terrible event. I have close ties to Boston. I have run that marathon with those people in the past and have had friends and relatives cheering for me at that finish line.  I found this incident to be particularly sad and troubling.

The Boston Police Department is investigating the cause of the fire and initial indications are that it was not connected to the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  Please remember the people affected by the tragedy in Boston on Monday, and wish for their resilience and for their healing.

Today, the work of the American people continues in Boston, and my heartfelt congratulations go out to the people who have been working hard to develop the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which is launching online today.  Unfortunately, Monday’s tragedy occurred at the very steps of where the official gala launch was planned to be held, the Boston Public Library. The gala has … [ Read all ]

Deck Logs

Written on: January 18, 2013 | 6 Comments

As a Navy veteran I have a particular fondness for U.S. Navy records, especially deck logs. From my first days here at the National Archives when I discovered that we had the actual deck logs from the US S Constitution including her service during the War of 1812 to the day I was handed a deck log of the USS Sanctuary, AH-17 , covering my time aboard that hospital ship in Viet Nam I have been hooked on this record series!

So, it was a real treat to learn that NOAA had approached us in April of 2011 with the idea of digitally imaging the logs of Navy and Coast Guard Revenue Cutter vessels as part of their work with OldWeather.org to document weather conditions in the North Pacific Arctic region during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In a wonderful crowd sourcing venture, volunteers working with OldWeather.org transcribe handwritten weather observations as well as log entries on vessel movement and activities. It is a win-win cross agency collaboration—NOAA gets the weather data and NARA gets the digital images for posting.

Scanning began in July 2012 and so far the logbooks of ten vessels have been completed and 65,000 images posted to our Archival Research Catalog.

Pressed flowers were found in the USRC Corwin log entry for 14 January 1891 from Port Townsend, … [ Read all ]

Staying Ahead of Sandy

Written on: October 31, 2012 | 3 Comments

I hope that you and your families are well and safe after Sandy’s visit to the Northeast.

The National Archives buildings were largely spared, thanks to extensive preparation based on “lessons learned” from similar weather events.  I am grateful to all of our staff and especially to our facilities and emergency staff for their ongoing work in keeping personnel and records safe. None of our records were damaged as a result of Hurricane Sandy, thanks to our staffs’ careful preparation.

At Archives I, in Washington D.C., our facilities staff took several precautionary steps prior to Hurricane Sandy’s arrival, including pumping down sump pits and pre-deploying the flood gates at the A1 moat openings.  Additional measures implemented after the 2006 flooding including the installation of coffer dams and watertight doors, successfully limited water leakage to a minimal amount.  The generator fuel tanks were filled and ready in case power was lost.

 

East Flood Wall (7th Street), Archives I Building, Washington DC:

East Flood Wall

 

West Flood Wall (9th Street) Exterior, Archives I Building, Washington DC:

West Flood Wall Exterior

(Photo credit: Timothy Edwards, National Archives Facility Manager)

At Archives II, our facility at College Park, MD, advance preparations included pumping down the rain water storage tank and securing the exterior of the building, as well as filling the generator fuel tanks in case power was lost. Power service remained throughout. There … [ Read all ]

Capturing Living Memory

Written on: August 24, 2012 | 0 Comments

Colleen Wallace Nungari’s painting, Dreamtime Sisters, was selected as the “brand” for the International Council on Archives Congress which closes today in Brisbane, Australia. More than 1,000 archivists from 95 countries gathered to dream about the future around the theme, “A Climate of Change.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreamtime Sisters, by Colleen Wallace Nungari

 

I was particularly struck by the theme of Nungari’s artwork and the relationship to the week’s deliberations. Dreamtime, in Aboriginal culture, described the period before living memory when the earth and all living things were created by Spirits from above and below. Dreamtime stories embody the culture and customs passed down and celebrated to this day.

Against that backdrop, as the group gathered for the opening session where I was invited to speak about social media, I encouraged them keep that image in mind as we deliberated on the state of the art of preserving today’s and tomorrow’s “living memory.” Honor the past as we create the future.

Read the full text of my address at the International Council on Archives Congress in Brisbane, Australia.… [ Read all ]

Wikimania 2012

Written on: July 18, 2012 | 9 Comments

Last Saturday I spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of Wikimedians at the Wikimania 2012 Conference here in Washington. Over 1400 people from 87 countries came together to talk, hack, and share their expertise and experiences at the week-long event.  I was glad to share in their joie de vivre and to talk about our common missions at the closing plenary session.

Check out the enthusiasm for the National Archives at Wikimania 2012:

So you may be asking why the Archivist of the United States is so interested in working with the Wikimedia Foundation.  As I noted at the conference, 42% of Americans turn to Wikipedia for information.* It is a terrific way to make Archives content more transparent and available. If we are serious as an agency about our mission to provide access to permanent federal records, and indeed we are, then we must consider working with the community and using the power tools available through the Wikimedia Foundation.

Our Wikipedian in Residence (pictured above) has already worked with our staff to upload over 90,000 digital copies of our records to the Wikimedia Commons for use in Wikipedian articles.  We have several more projects in the pipeline, too, all in an effort to increase access to our records.

Here’s what I said to the crowd Saturday afternoon:

The conference had a robust backchannel of information … [ Read all ]

1940 Census Release

Written on: April 2, 2012 | 1 Comment

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 ]

Nazi Looting Documentation

Written on: March 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

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 ]

Thinking About the Future

Written on: January 31, 2012 | 8 Comments

I had an opportunity to provide the keynote address at a recent meeting of the Association of Library and Information School Education (ALISE). The Association has been active since 1915 in providing a forum for archive and library educators to share ideas, to discuss issues, and to seek solutions to common problems.

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
  • [ Read all ]

“Yes We Scan”

Written on: January 10, 2012 | 34 Comments

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.

Here at the National Archives, we house the nation’s permanent records, and we think increasing access to our collections in this way is a great idea. Our most recent efforts to do this ourselves as part of our OpenGov initiative, include the Citizen Archivist project, a Wikipedian in Residence, Tag it Tuesdays, and Scanathons. We are also moving forward on implementing the President’s recent Memorandum on Managing Government Records, which focuses on the need to update policies and practices for the digital age.

Wikipedia “ExtravaSCANza” at the National Archives in College Park, MD.  January 6, 2012. Source: Wikimedia Commons

But all those things aren’t enough. Yes We Scan calls for a national strategy, and even a Federal Scanning … [ Read all ]