Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

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
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“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 ]

Together We Can Do It!

Written on: December 23, 2011 | 2 Comments

Today we launch the Citizen Archivist Dashboard (http://www.archives.gov/citizen-archivist/) and encourage you to get involved in elevating the visibility of the records of the United States.

Citizen Archivist Dashboard Screen Shot

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:  opengov@nara.gov.

I am HUGE fan of the wisdom of the crowd.  Don’t disappoint me!… [ Read all ]

A Tool for Transformation

Written on: November 23, 2011 | 7 Comments

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:

 

Although we are at the forefront of federal agencies using a comprehensive social media tool for our work, we are definitely not alone. We surveyed peer organizations, looked at their lessons learned, and discussed social collaboration systems with their staff. Examples of what others are doing include: the Army’s MilBook, NASA’s Spacebook, Defense’s DoDTechipedia, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Knowledge Center.

These organizations understand the value in using … [ Read all ]

International Action On the Open Government Front

Written on: October 25, 2011 | 0 Comments

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

[ Read all ]

Digital Public Library of America

Written on: October 24, 2011 | 2 Comments

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!

Visual artist drawing on poster board.  Poster titled: DLPA - What is the DPLA?

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 ]

The National Archives Celebrates the United States’ Entry into the Open Government Partnership

Written on: September 21, 2011 | 2 Comments

Yesterday, President Barack Obama unveiled the U.S. National Action Plan during a meeting in New York of the member nations of the Open Government Partnership.  Last Week, the White House also issued a Status Report on the Administration’s Commitment to Open Government.

Open Government Parnership Plan
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 ]

Cue the Locusts!

Written on: August 29, 2011 | 2 Comments

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.

Lots of staff contributed to our … [ Read all ]

GLAMorous

Written on: May 25, 2011 | 2 Comments

According to Alexa.com, the internet traffic ranking company, there are only six websites that internet users worldwide visit more often than Wikipedia: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo!, Blogger.com, and Baidu.com (the leading Chinese language search engine).  In the States, it ranks sixth behind Amazon.com.   Over the past few years, the National Archives has worked with many of these groups to make our holdings increasingly findable and accessible.  Our goal is to meet people where they are online.

This past fall, we took the first step toward building a relationship with the “online encyclopedia that anyone can edit,” Wikipedia.  When we first began exploring the idea of a National Archives-Wikipedia relationship, Liam Wyatt put us in touch with the local DC-area Wikipedian community.

Liam Wyatt and David Ferriero at the National Archives

Early in our correspondence, we were encouraged and inspired when Liam wrote that he could “quite confidently say that the potential for collaboration between NARA and the Wikimedia projects are both myriad and hugely valuable – in both directions.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Though many of us have been enthusiastic users of the Free Encyclopedia for years, this was our first foray into turning that enthusiasm into an ongoing relationship.  As National Archives staff met with the DC Wikipedians, they explained the Archives’ commitment to the Open Government principles of transparency, participation, and … [ Read all ]

Crowdsourcing and Citizen Archivist Program

Written on: May 19, 2011 | 3 Comments

At the National Archives, we’re always trying to think of new ways to make our historical records more accessible to the public.  We have only a small fraction of our 10 billion records online, so it’s clear we’ve got to get creative.

It’s vital that we learn how other institutions address this challenge.  One approach we’re seeing is for institutions to engage citizens in crowdsourcing or microvolunteering projects.  These projects leverage the enthusiasm and willingness of online volunteers to transcribe or geotag historical records online.

Yesterday, we hosted a public program in the McGowan Theater called “Are You In? Citizen Archivists, Crowdsourcing, and Open Government.  We heard about three innovative projects:

I encourage you to watch the video of the full program below.

Try your hand at these and other types of crowdsourcing projects and let us know what types of projects you would like to see the National Archives develop in the future.… [ Read all ]