Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

The Spirit of Boston

Written on: April 18, 2013 | 7 Comments

On Monday, April 15, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum suffered a fire. It was quickly managed and extinguished by first responders from the Boston Fire Department and the Boston Police Department. My sincere thanks go to them for their extraordinary efforts. I am grateful that no one was injured.

This fire occurred around the same time as the awful attack in Copley Plaza during the Boston Marathon. Our hearts go out to the victims of that terrible, terrible event. I have close ties to Boston. I have run that marathon with those people in the past and have had friends and relatives cheering for me at that finish line.  I found this incident to be particularly sad and troubling.

The Boston Police Department is investigating the cause of the fire and initial indications are that it was not connected to the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  Please remember the people affected by the tragedy in Boston on Monday, and wish for their resilience and for their healing.

Today, the work of the American people continues in Boston, and my heartfelt congratulations go out to the people who have been working hard to develop the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which is launching online today.  Unfortunately, Monday’s tragedy occurred at the very steps of where the official gala launch was planned to be held, the Boston Public Library. The gala has … [ Read all ]

We Salute You

Written on: November 8, 2012 | 1 Comment

Veterans Day has special meaning for us at the National Archives where we hold the almost 112 million individual personnel files and medical records of the men and women who have served in the military. Housed in St. Louis, Missouri and Valmeyer, Illinois, more than 800 staff process, protect, and service those records to ensure that veterans and their families can receive the benefits due to them, can document family histories, and can received replacement medals and awards. More than 5,000 requests are received each day and I am so proud of the dedication the staff brings to their work, often going the extra mile to ensure that our veterans get what they need.

Photograph of San Francisco Yeomen attached to the Naval Reserve, June 1918. National Archives Identifier: 533764

 

Another more than 10 million military service records and pension files from earlier wars—American Revolution through the Philippine-American War—are serviced in Washington, DC.

Each one of those records, as is the case with each record in our custody, tells a story. Two of thousands of stories:

A veteran’s family wrote hoping to confirm a story regarding a real “Great Escape” during World War II. Staff discovered that the veteran had been captured by the Germans in 1944 and sent to a labor camp in Poland. He escaped by tunneling under the wire fence, disguised … [ Read all ]

Staying Ahead of Sandy

Written on: October 31, 2012 | 3 Comments

I hope that you and your families are well and safe after Sandy’s visit to the Northeast.

The National Archives buildings were largely spared, thanks to extensive preparation based on “lessons learned” from similar weather events.  I am grateful to all of our staff and especially to our facilities and emergency staff for their ongoing work in keeping personnel and records safe. None of our records were damaged as a result of Hurricane Sandy, thanks to our staffs’ careful preparation.

At Archives I, in Washington D.C., our facilities staff took several precautionary steps prior to Hurricane Sandy’s arrival, including pumping down sump pits and pre-deploying the flood gates at the A1 moat openings.  Additional measures implemented after the 2006 flooding including the installation of coffer dams and watertight doors, successfully limited water leakage to a minimal amount.  The generator fuel tanks were filled and ready in case power was lost.

 

East Flood Wall (7th Street), Archives I Building, Washington DC:

East Flood Wall

 

West Flood Wall (9th Street) Exterior, Archives I Building, Washington DC:

West Flood Wall Exterior

(Photo credit: Timothy Edwards, National Archives Facility Manager)

At Archives II, our facility at College Park, MD, advance preparations included pumping down the rain water storage tank and securing the exterior of the building, as well as filling the generator fuel tanks in case power was lost. Power service remained throughout. There … [ Read all ]

Records Management with a Backbone

Written on: August 24, 2012 | 3 Comments

In his Memorandum on Managing Government Records,  President Obama stated “…proper records management is the backbone of open Government.”  The Memorandum began an executive branch wide effort to reform records management policies and practices and required each agency to:

  • identify a senior official responsible for records
  • provide plans for improving or maintaining its records management program, especially electronic records; and
  • suggest obstacles to sound, cost effective management policies and practices

Finally, the Memorandum mandates that the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and I issue a Records Management Directive which focuses on:

  • creating a Government wide records management framework that is more efficient and cost effective
  • promoting records management policies and practices that enhance the capability of agencies to fulfill their statutory missions
  • maintaining accountability through documentation of agency actions
  • increasing open Government and appropriate access to Government records
  • supporting agency compliance with applicable legal requirements related to the preservation of information relevant to litigation; and
  • transitioning from paper-based records management to electronic records management where feasible.

I am pleased to report that this morning Jeffrey Zients, Acting Director of OMB and I issued the Managing Government Records Directive.  With lots of hard work on the part of National Archives and Records Administration, White House, Federal agency staffs and stakeholder groups, the directive charts new directions for the management of the … [ Read all ]

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 ]

Solving the Problems of Our Time

Written on: June 8, 2012 | 2 Comments

On his first day on the job President Barack Obama told his Senior Staff,

“Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made. It means recognizing that Government does not have all the answers, and that public officials need to draw on what citizens know. And that’s why, as of today, I’m directing members of my administration to find new ways of tapping the knowledge and experience of ordinary Americans—scientists and civil leaders, educators and entrepreneurs—because the way to solve the problems of our time, as a nation, is by involving the American people in shaping the policies that affect their lives.”

Knowing we don’t have all the answers, we’re changing the way we think about our work at the National Archives and Records Administration. We’re shifting our perspectives to reflect the fact that we do not have all the answers. The principles of open government – transparency, participation, and collaboration – help us draw on what citizens know.

Today, we release our updated Open Government Plan for 2012-2014. Looking back over the past two years, I’m proud of our accomplishments in strengthening open government in our agency and in our society. We set an ambitious path, accomplishing almost 70 tasks. Over the next two years our work will include:

  • Creating a new culture based on
[ Read all ]

Thanks

Written on: May 24, 2012 | 4 Comments

This week we had an agency wide Public Employee Service Recognition webinar.  Staff gathered virtually across the country to celebrate their fellow employees, especially those who have provided 35, 40, and 45+ years of Federal Service.

I am very proud of the dedicated folks I work with and although it wasn’t as good as being in all 44 facilities at once, it was terrific to hear the hooting and hollering as the names were read.

Image courtesy of alexking.org

National Archives staff are skilled public servants who help people connect with the records they need—veterans, genealogists, students, scholars, and those just curious about our history.  And this staff helps our fellow Federal employees in managing and accessing their own records and provides service to the Hill for access to Congressional Records on our shelves.

Five people who together have given the American people 237 years of service were honored:

  • Charles Johnson, a Finding Aids Specialist in Washington, DC has served 45 years.
  • Ray Hess, an Archives Technician in the National Declassification Center in College Park, MD, has served 45 years.
  • Kenneth Casey, a Transfer and Disposal Specialist at the Federal Records Center in Chicago, IL, has served 45 years.
  • Brenda Bernard, Administrative Officer in the Federal Records Center in Philadelphia, PA, has served 46 years.
  • Bernard Gardner, an Archives Technician in the Washington National Records
[ Read all ]

Join the Chorus

Written on: April 13, 2012 | 4 Comments

Until fairly recently, social media has been seen as experimental and outside the realm of the essential work of our agency. Today that is simply no longer the case.  Smart use of social media is now mission-critical to our agency. As the agency charged with advising Federal Agencies and the White House on the records implications of the technologies they are using, we must be out in front in our own use of these technologies.  And all Federal Agencies and the White House are deep into the social media experience.  And using social media channels in our own work, we can work more collaboratively, provide greater transparency for each other and the public, and invite the public to participate in our efforts.

We should understand the sea change that technology has brought to the American public and people around the world. According to a Pew report, 66% of online adults use social media platforms. By effectively engaging with social media tools, we are building and maintaining relevance with the public.

Many staff members at the National Archives have embraced social media–our communications staff is facile, many staff who interact with our user communities have created blogs and are tweeting, and all of our Presidential Libraries have both feet in the social media world.  This is not a passing fad or a frivolous use of technology.  It … [ 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 ]

Thank You, Irma Johnson

Written on: March 13, 2012 | 3 Comments

Many, many years ago when I was shelving books in the MIT Humanities Library I was fortunate to have the benefit of advice from several members of the staff who took an interest in my “career.”  One of them was the Science Librarian, Irma Johnson.  I got to know Irma well because every summer she would want some portion of her collection shifted to better serve her clientele—and I did the shifting.  It was an interesting way to learn the literature of the sciences!

That was the beginning of a 31-year stay in the MIT Libraries during which time I became Irma’s boss and my real learning from her began.  She had her finger on the pulse of the needs of her users—mathematicians are heavily dependent upon the literature of the past, similar to historians; materials science was a discipline invented at MIT and heavily dependent on the literatures of many sciences; demanding chemists need access to their literature 24×7; the food and nutrition folks were doing interesting work with freeze-drying that might have library preservation applications, etc.  Irma clearly shaped my curiosity about user behavior and my lifelong perspective of looking at everything we do from the user’s viewpoint.

I kept in touch with Irma throughout my career each time thanking her for those early lessons.  She passed away in 2010 at the age … [ Read all ]