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