Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category
On July 26, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Federal Register Act by launching Federal Register 2.0. In a special event in the Rotunda of the National Archives, I will be joined by the Public Printer of the United States and distinguished guests from regulatory agencies and the open government community to introduce the web 2.0 version of the daily Federal Register.
What is the Federal Register?
The Federal Register is the legal newspaper of the U.S. government and contains rules, proposed rules, and public notices of federal agencies, as well Presidential documents. It’s an important, crucial part of our democracy. The Office of the Federal Register is a component of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Have you ever tried to find something in the Federal Register?
As you might expect, the Federal Register is dense and difficult to read whether in print or online as a PDF. It’s also difficult to find what you’re looking for.
Federal Register 2.0 takes into consideration the 21st century user and turns the Federal Register website into a daily web newspaper. The clear layout will have tools to help users find what they need, comment on proposed rules, and share material relevant to their interests. In addition to greatly improved navigation and search tools, the site will highlight the most popular and newsworthy documents and … [ Read all ]
I celebrated Independence Day in the most spectacular way. I wasn’t really prepared for how amazing the day would be. I felt proud and honored to be the Archivist of the United States. I was truly moved by the enthusiasm of the crowds lined up along Constitution Avenue to cheer as our float went by, and those streaming into the National Archives building until 8:00 p.m. to see the Declaration of Independence.
It was a full day of events at the National Archives Building, which included a ride down Constitution Ave on our first ever National Archives float, and wrapped up the day watching fireworks set to the 1812 Overture.
David Ferriero, Congressman Lacy Clay, and Thomas Jefferson
Aboard the National Archives Float on July 4, 2010
(Photo courtesy of Trevor Plante, National Archives)
Congressman Lacy Clay and Thomas Jefferson joined me on the National Archives float and a group of enthusiastic NARA employees escorted us down Constitution Ave. Many thanks to those NARA employees who walked proudly along the parade route, including: Chidinma Achebe, Ann Baker, Nick Baric, Bianaca Black, Rick Blondo, Rita Cacas, Jason Clingerman, Stephanie Coon, Evan Coren, Cathy Farmer, Barbara Gordon, Steven Haversack, Heidi Holmstorm, Darrell Jackson, Thomas Jenkins, Megan Jones, Mary Knill, Denise LeBeck, John Legloahec, Carrie McGuire, Bryan Oklin, Alfie Paul, Rebecca Sams, and Roger Wilson.
The day was … [ Read all ]
On June 16, I joined Carl Malamud and members of the International Amateur Scanning League (IASL) in the Still Picture Research Room at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. I was lending my support to their newest citizen archivist project — scanning and making available online approximately 15,000 State Department photographs of diplomatic events and facilities within the records of the National Archives. This is yet one more example of the work of Carl Malamud, esteemed citizen archivist, who has worked tirelessly over the years to put public information in the public domain. Since February, Carl and the members of the IASL have been working to make over 1,500 videos from the records of the National Archives available online.
Carl Malamud (right) and Members of the International Amateur Scanning League
(Photo Courtesy of the National Archives)
I got the chance to do some scanning and see the new equipment supplied by the Scanning League in action. State Department International New Media Strategist, Dean Cheves was on hand to share his enthusiasm and support for the project. Volunteers from the State Department will also be scanning photographs, which will be valuable for U.S. Embassies around the world. I’m hoping this project will be inspiration for more departments and agencies to send volunteers to the National Archives to work on digitizing their records.
The Archivist of … [ Read all ]
This past Wednesday, the National Archives hosted a public forum to discuss how the National Declassification Center (NDC) should prioritize the declassification of records. The forum was an active and lively discussion. We heard many suggestions and comments from members of the public on a draft prioritization plan. I was joined on stage by Sheryl Shenberger, the first permanent director of the NDC; Michael Kurtz, the Assistant Archivist for Records Services – Washington, D.C. and former Acting Director of the NDC; and Beth Fidler, senior archivist in the Office of Presidential Libraries.
The prioritization plan is being developed with your help. We’ve woven the principles of open government — transparency, participation, and collaboration — into our process. We made the draft plan publicly available on our website. We’ve received your comments and suggestions through email, the NDC Blog, and the June 23 public forum. We also worked to bring the forum to those who were unable to attend in person through a live webcast.
The prioritization plan will serve as a roadmap in processing the backlog of 400 million pages of classified records by December 31, 2013. The goal is to get as many of these documents as possible on the open shelves as quickly as possible for researchers, journalists, historians, government officials, and the public.
(Photo Courtesy of the National Archives)
I encourage you … [ Read all ]
Everyone brings their special dish to a potluck. It’s what makes a potluck so terrific. We make dishes we know well and are likely to be enjoyed by the crowd. My signature potluck dish is a killer potato salad!
Potlucks bring together the culinary expertise of the group in the same way that crowdsourcing leverages a community’s expertise to solve a problem. It turns out that the belief in the benefit of crowdsourcing is an old one. Aristotle said,
“It is possible that the many, no one of whom taken singly is a sound man, may yet, taken all together, be better than the few, not individually but collectively, in the same way that a feast to which all contribute is better than one supplied at one man’s expense.”
Who knew Aristotle was a such a big fan of potlucks?
At the 2010 Records Administration Conference (RACO), Cass Sunstein, lawyer, law school faculty member, author, and Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said that
“…transparency draws on the understanding that no one knows what all of us know. I am speaking of access to dispersed information – of how open government can encourage public participation and allow citizens not just to keep the republic, but to shape it.”
Cass Sunstein and AOTUS at the 2010 RACO Conference
All of this hinges on … [ Read all ]
At the National Archives and Records Administration, we care for our nation’s most beloved documents. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights are our most well known national treasures, but in the stacks there are many others, some of them not yet discovered. At a researcher meeting last month, I met Jonathan Webb Deiss, a researcher at the National Archives. His knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm for discovering treasures makes him a model citizen archivist. Jonathan told me how he found a previously undiscovered Revolutionary War diary in Record Group 46, Records of the U.S. Senate. As a knowledgeable and skilled researcher, Jonathan knew that Samuel Leavitt’s Journal to Westpoint was important. One can easily imagine his excitement and anticipation in that moment of discovery.
Jonathan told me that Samuel Leavitt was a soldier from Stratham, New Hampshire. He enlisted in early July 1780 to serve a three month tour. The journal starts on July 5, 1780 and covers his march to West Point, his tour of duty, and march back to New Hampshire in October 1780. On page 17 of the diary, Samuel Leavitt describes General Washington at West Point and hearing the “news of Gen’l Arnold the commander of the Garrison deserting to the Enemy.” Watch the following video of Jonathan describing his discovery, details of the … [ Read all ]
One of my favorite strategic planning quotes is from Wayne Gretzky. He said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” A recent Morgan Stanley report on Internet trends, gives us a lot of data on where the puck will be and the direction in which we should be skating: mobile.
Mobile will be bigger than
desktop Internet in five years.
The Morgan Stanley report challenges us to look at statistics and where the future is headed.
- Mobile Internet use is being adopted by users much faster than the adoption of desktop Internet.
- The number of mobile users will likely surpass desktop Internet users in 2013.
- Technology cycles tend to last ten years, and we’re about two years into a mobile Internet cycle.
- The expectation is now 24 x 7 access to everything from the palm of your hand.
Since my days at MIT, I’ve been an avid reader of Technology Review. One of their ten emerging technologies for 2010 is mobile 3-D. Seemingly futuristic technology is now closer than ever to being in the palm of your hand.
What do these trends mean for the National Archives and Records Administration?
The cornerstone of the work we do every day is the belief that citizens have the right to see, examine, and learn from the records that … [ Read all ]
At the National Archives and Records Administration, our unique role as the nation’s records keeper is critical to the success of the President’s open government initiative. Our work serves American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, ensuring that the people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. I think this role is the most important, but then again, I might be a little too biased.
As the Archivist of the United States, I’m concerned that records management is not taken more seriously by Federal departments and agencies. In my last post, I pointed to specific concerns found in a recent self-assessment report, including improper destruction of records. I’m also concerned that more Americans aren’t troubled by this state of affairs. One reason why Americans might not be more concerned is that they aren’t really aware of what happens to government records and why they are important.
I think it’s time we create new ways to tell our story. Transparency, participation, and collaboration can help us change the way we talk about our work and our institution. I’m challenging us to take a new approach and start communicating in more collaborative ways.
Recently, I discovered the website, “Today’s Document (Illustrated)” by Jon White. Jon has taken our “Today’s Document” RSS feed and develops an illustration that is somehow related to … [ Read all ]
Recently, NASA launched an online project called “Be A Martian.” At first glance, this website is a highly sophisticated public education tool that creates an online experience to connect the public with NASA’s mission. On closer inspection, this is also an important crowdsourcing project. The public is invited to participate as “citizen scientists” by aligning Mars imagery and counting craters. The Martian Map room is an intriguing interface where the public is invited to actually add value to the vast amount of data from several Mars missions. Do you see where I’m going with this?
While citizen science isn’t new, we are only now starting to create online platforms for citizens to make substantive contributions, regardless of location. The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) North American Bird Phenology Program has 1,754 online volunteers who have transcribed 228,479 bird migration cards. The collection contains six million paper migration cards, representing the contributions of citizen scientists in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The USGS Staff have developed a program to tap the enthusiasm and willingness of 21st century online citizen scientists to transcribe this data, which scientists are now analyzing to see how climate change affects migration. This is an example of citizens contributing in very interesting ways, ways in which I can see “citizen archivists” contributing to our mission.
At the National Archives and Records Administration, we have … [ Read all ]
The Pew Research Center recently published a report, “The Impact of the Internet on Institutions in the Future,” in which it found that 72 percent of experts agreed with the statement:
By 2020, innovative forms of online cooperation will result in significantly more efficient and responsive governments, business, non-profits, and other mainstream institutions.
That optimism agreed to by the experts indicates their belief that the internet will prompt institutional change, but is contrasted with the same experts’ concerns that:
Government agencies are cumbersome and resistant to change. The pace of progress towards openness and responsiveness will be slower than anyone would hope.
In my first few months on the job, I’ve seen some resistance to change, but that has been outmatched by what I see as a wellspring of enthusiasm for changes to our agency. One aspect of my job is to uncover and unleash talent across the agency. I am happy to say that I’ve already seen the passion of our staff and I know we can change our course and exceed expectations.
In this digital age, we have the opportunity to work and communicate more efficiently, effectively, and in completely new ways. This will require a change not only in our processes, but also in the culture of the National Archives and Records Administration. Working on the Open Government Plan (PDF) has helped … [ Read all ]