Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category
Earlier this year, Jessie Kratz was appointed Historian of the National Archives—our first! Jessie has been with the Archives nearly 15 years—most recently on staff at the Center for Legislative Archives.
Over the years, many staff members have informally filled that role in various capacities and I want to thank them for recognizing the importance of our own history. Ironically, the National Archives, the repository of the nation’s history, had no historian of its own. I have come to appreciate the work that the historians across the Federal government do and am so pleased that we join the ranks of those Agency and Congressional historians.
Upon accepting the job, Jessie’s first priority was to create the National Archives History Office to ensure our agency’s history is retained. She is working to make sure the official records created by the National Archives are preserved and accessible for research.
“What is Past is Prologue”, inscribed on Future (1935, Robert Aitken) located on the northeast corner of the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of user: Salticidae on Flickr
Jessie’s office will also be accepting non-record material— this includes memoirs, collections of original photographs and letters, memorabilia, diaries, maps and other historical documents that help tell the story of the National Archives but would not otherwise be preserved in the official records of the National Archives. Please contact her if … [ Read all ]
The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) recently hosted an open meeting to discuss its recommendations to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System, focusing on declassification prioritization. PIDB continues to advocate for public discussion on the report. This meeting represented opportunities to highlight recommendations from the report, continue the conversation about the current declassification system, and discuss the topics citizens want prioritized for declassification.
The meeting also hosted a panel discussion on “Perspectives on Prioritizing Government Records for Declassification and Public Access,” featuring Stephen Randolph, Historian at the Department of State; Joseph Lambert, Director of Information Management Services at the Central Intelligence Agency; Michael Dobbs, Journalist and Scholar-in-Residence at the Holocaust Museum; and Stephen Aftergood from the Federation of American Scientists.
My opening remarks at the meeting were an opportunity to emphasize the importance of the National Archives’ role in this democratic process, and to highlight the work we are doing to eliminate the declassification backlog and modernize records management practices:
When people have open access to government information, they are able to hold government accountable for its actions. This is an essential part of our democracy. As Thomas Jefferson wrote from Paris in 1789: “whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government…whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on … [ Read all ]
With the opening of the “Discovery and Recovery” exhibit, I had a chance last week to thank many of the National Archives staff who made it possible. And it truly took a village to make this happen! Staff from just about every corner of the Agency contributed—preservation and conservation, security, legal, communications, exhibits, digital engagement, innovation, digital preservation, holdings protection, programs, and facilities. Truly a team effort.
Photo of the “Discovery and Recovery” exhibit in the Lawrence O’Brien Gallery. Photograph from the National Archives’ Instagram account: instagram.com/usnatarchives
In my remarks to the assembled staff I tried to convey my pride in their work, but also my pride in the passion and commitment they bring to the job every day. And I was reminded of the closing lines of Donna Tartt’s new novel, The Goldfinch, about the rescue of a painting:
“…if disaster and oblivion have followed this painting down through time—so too has love. Insofar as it is immortal (and it is) I have a small, bright, immutable part in that immortality. It exists; and it keeps on existing. And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along … [ Read all ]
Next week we will be opening an extraordinary exhibit, “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage,” at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The exhibit, spanning more than 400 years, tells the story of the dramatic recovery on May 6, 2003, of 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents from a flooded basement in the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein’s secret police.
The discovery, named the Iraqi Jewish Archive, included some of the most sacred texts of the Jewish people, including an ancient Torah, Talmud and Zohar—along with tens of thousands of documents relating to the Jewish community in Iraq. Upon the discovery of the documents, we were immediately called in due to our Agency’s extensive expertise in protecting great cultural treasures such as these from decay and destruction.
Led by our Director of Preservation Programs, Doris A. Hamburg, and supported by the U.S. Department of State, the National Archives has for more than a decade taken painstaking efforts to preserve these texts and digitize them for universal public access. Their relentless dedication has ensured that these sacred texts will be kept alive and accessible. The result is a wonderful demonstration of the talent which exists here at the National Archives.
The exhibit, in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery, opens on November 7 and closes on January 5, … [ Read all ]
What happens when archives, libraries and museums come together? They build something amazing.
The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is here, and the National Archives is proud to participate as a leading content provider in this exciting online portal and platform.
The DPLA provides a single online access point for anyone, anywhere to search and access digital collections containing America’s cultural, historical and scientific heritage. Following the successful launch in April 2013, DPLA continues to grow, regularly bringing in new partners and content. For the latest news, check out DPLAfest 2013, happening right now in Boston!
This large-scale collaborative effort to create a universal digital public library has united leaders and educators from various government agencies, libraries, archives and museums. Together with several large content providers, such as the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian, and Harvard University, the National Archives is sharing content from our online catalog in the DPLA.
In fact, the National Archives has already contributed 1.9 million digital copies of historical material, including our nation’s founding documents, photos from the Documerica Photography Project of the 1970’s, World War II posters, Mathew Brady Civil War photographs, and a wide variety of documents that define our human and civil rights.
“WPA Library Bookmobile,” National Archives Identifier 195912
The National Archives’ participation in this exciting project marks a new opportunity to share our … [ Read all ]
In May 2011, Dominic McDevitt-Parks joined the National Archives as our first Wikipedian-In-Residence. This put the National Archives at the forefront of many cultural institutions in partnering with the Wikimedia community.
Working for the National Archives as a part-time student intern, our Wikipedian led ground-breaking efforts for the agency. His automated-upload project provided 100,000 digital images of NARA’s records on the Wikimedia Commons for use in Wikipedia articles. He coordinated and hosted Wikimedia crowdsourcing projects that included digitization and transcription of records. He acted as a bridge between NARA and the Wikimedia community, bringing Wikipedians into the Archives, and ensuring that NARA staff attended and presented at the 2012 Wikimania Conference, as well as hosting local gatherings of Wikimedians at the National Archives.
The results? The top 4,000 Wikipedia articles that include NARA digital copies are on track to receive one billion views in 2013. That’s why it is important to work with the Wikimedia community, they share a common mission with the Archives, to provide world class access.
Dominic’s work with us at that time generated a great deal of buzz, including the following:
Robert D.W. Connor, the President of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and recently retired first Archivist of the United States, in his address to the Society at their annual meeting in 1942 read a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt who had been awarded an honorary membership in the organization. He called for “…the duplication of records by modern processes…”
Letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Robert Diggs Wembly Connor, 13 February 1942, Folder 668, Box 8 in the R. D. W. Connor Papers #2427, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
FDR acknowledged the magnitude of effort required: “This involves, of course, a vast amount of work because of the volume of federal, state and local archives of all kinds—but I think that a broad plan would meet with hearty public support if it could be properly publicized.”
Which brings to mind the language in our draft Strategic Plan, one of the objectives under our goal of Making Access Happen. In an effort to make an ever-increasing number of records available to the public we have promised to streamline processes, innovate, and collaborate with others to significantly increase the number of NARA records that are available to the public. In fact, we have been so bold as to suggest that we “Digitize all analog archival … [ Read all ]
Yesterday the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences released their report—The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation. The report is the response to a bipartisan request from members of Congress: “What are the top actions that Congress, state governments, universities, foundations, educators, individual benefactors, and others should take now to maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship and education, and to achieve long-term national goals for our intellectual and economic well-being; for a stronger, more vibrant civil society; and for the success of cultural diplomacy in the 21st century?”
The three goals and thirteen recommendations articulate an agenda which resonates with me.
Goal 1: Educate Americans in the knowledge, skills, and understanding they will need to thrive in a twenty-first-century democracy. The National Archives has, from its beginnings, had an educational mission and today, as civic literacy is at its lowest ebb, that mandate is ever more important. The creation of and access to online resources and teaching materials provide the tools for “citizens to participate meaningfully in the democratic process” articulated in one of the recommendations.
Goal 2: Foster a society that is innovative, competitive, and strong. Supporting innovative research and discovery through our National Historical Publications and Research Commission grants … [ Read all ]
This afternoon, the National Archives launched Founders Online—a tool for seamless searching across the Papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. Our National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) has been funding these projects in paper for some time. Working with Rotunda at the University of Virginia Press and the editors of the six papers project, Founders Online was created with NHPRC funding to provide simultaneous searching across all six collections at once.
Through Founders Online you can now trace the shaping of the nation, the extraordinary clash of ideas, the debates and discussions carried out through drafts and final versions of public documents as well as the evolving thoughts and principles shared in personal correspondence, diaries, and journals. This beta version of Founders Online contains over 119,000 documents, and new documents will be added to the site on a continual basis.
You can see first-hand the close working partnership between George Washington and Alexander Hamilton from their time in the Revolutionary War to Hamilton’s draft of Washington’s Farewell Address. Or read John Adams’ description of Congress as a place where “There is so much Wit, Sense, Learning, Acuteness, Subtilty, Eloquence, etc. among fifty Gentlemen, each of whom has been habituated to lead and guide in his own Province, that an immensity of Time, is … [ Read all ]