Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category
Since my swearing in as the 10th Archivist of the United States less than a year ago, we’ve taken important steps to become a more open, transparent, participatory, and collaborative agency.
I’m proud of our accomplishments:
We’ve made a great start, but we have a lot more to do if we are to be well-positioned to meet the challenges we face in the 21st century.
It’s time for us to step out of our comfort zones and rethink how we operate as an agency.
A few months ago, I charged a task force to draft a plan for agency transformation. A draft plan was circulated internally for staff input. I’d like to thank the NARA staff who submitted hundreds of thoughtful comments on the proposed plan. Their insight was indispensable in the development of the final report.
Last week their final report, “A Charter for Change,” was issued to staff. The report outlines a new organizational model for the National Archives. These organizational changes are driven by a set of guiding principles. These are the pillars of how we … [ Read all ]
Recently, I read an article and book by Charlene Li, an expert on social media and former analyst and vice president at Forrester Research. In the book, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, she states that greater openness in organizations is inevitable and is a consequence of the increasing use of social media.
As your customers and employees become more adept at using social and other emerging technologies, they will push you to be more open, urging you to let go in ways in which you may not be comfortable. Your natural inclination may be to fight this trend, to see it as a fad that you hope will fade and simply go away. It won’t. Not only is this trend inevitable, but it also is going to force you and your organization to be more open than you are today.
It’s evident that social media is breaking down barriers to communication and empowering citizens and employees to speak their minds freely. Broadcasting our opinions, views, and expressing our personality, is simple and easy on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. Li describes this new reality as a “period of fundamental social change akin to the rise of the automobile or the introduction of television.”
Her prescription for managing this new reality is “open leadership,” which means “having the confidence and … [ Read all ]
I would like to congratulate the NARA volunteers of the Civil War Conservation Corps (CWCC) on reaching a significant milestone in the preparation of Civil War Widow’s Certificate pension case files for digitization. On June 2, these dedicated citizen archivists completed preparation of the 50,000th file, sending it on its way to the digital cameras and to easy access by researchers.
CWCC members Peggy Pratt, Mary Lou Cole, and Sue Barnard review case files.
(Photo Courtesy of Earl McDonald, National Archives)
Sixteen years ago, in June 1994, the CWCC was launched with a call for volunteers. The recently deceased Budge Weidman answered the call and shepherded the project from the beginning. The volunteers’ work includes assessing the documents of each pension file for conservation and imaging concerns, identifying and arranging the documents, and abstracting key information to create the database that allows researchers to easily find the records they want. They have become expert in Army organization and pension law in the process, not to mention learning what it was like for widows, children, parents, and siblings of Civil War soldiers to carry on after the fighting ended. The members of the CWCC read hundreds, even thousands, of stories documenting ordinary Americans’ experiences of the Civil War in pension files that have often not been touched in more than 100 years.
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 ]