Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

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:

Merrilee Tattoo

Merrilee Proffitt, Senior Program Officer at OCLC Research, and NARA enthusiast

Dominic Tattoo

National Archives’ Wikipedian in Residence, Dominic McDevitt-Parks

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 … [ 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.

"Enumeration, Alaska Too Saw the Census Enumerator Arrive in His Dog Sled." National Archives and Records Administration. Series: Photographs Documenting the Sixteenth Decennial Census, compiled 1940 - 1941. ARC ID 6200721

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.

"Enumeration, No Kind of Habitation was Missed, Included among the Places are Railroad Section Hands." National Archives and Records Administration. Series: Photographs Documenting the Sixteenth Decennial Census, compiled 1940 - 1941. ARC ID: 6200776

On Monday morning, I was pleased to co-host the National Archives’ ceremony … [ 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
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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

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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 ]