Archive for the ‘Open Government’ Category

Be Bold: Make Access Happen

Written on: April 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Women Working at a Switchboard
Photograph of Women Working at a Bell System Telephone Switchboard. National Archives Identifier 1633445.

 

The first of our new strategic goals is to “Make Access Happen.”  Increasingly, access means digital, online access. Our first goal has one objective, to make our records available to the public in digital form to ensure that anyone can explore, discover and learn from our records.

Here are a few of the initiatives listed under this goal:

  • First, we want to complete the long journey of describing our holdings in our online catalog. We launched our first agency-wide online catalog in 2003, and now we are within just a few years of being able to say that over 95% of our records are described at the series level. Currently we are at 83% and going strong. Archivists across the agency continue to provide basic archival metadata to the catalog so that people around the world can know what we have.
  • We will also accelerate the processing of analog and digital records to quickly make our records available to the public. Foundational technology for that effort will be the development of a digital processing environment that will allow archival, digitization and description staff to work in an environment that supports and enhances accelerated processing of the records.
  • We want to digitize our records and to make them available online.
  • [ Read all ]

Help Us Innovate!

Written on: March 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

In the video below, Jennifer Pahlka, U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer, invites you to make a difference and serve your country by applying to become a Presidential Innovation Fellow. This is the third round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows. Projects from the first two rounds included: making government data more openly available, programs to assist Veterans, streamlining processes for citizens to find information and government services, and projects to assist American businesses. You can find out more about these first and second round projects on the Innovation Fellows website.

We are excited that this is the first time a National Archives project is featured! For our project, “Crowdsourcing Tools to Unlock Government Records,” innovators will lead the open development of crowdsourcing tools for the public to easily contribute to government records at the National Archives and improve the effectiveness of crowdsourcing across the government.

Presidential Innovation Fellows will build upon our crowdsourcing efforts, which have included the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, transcription projects, scan-a-thons, and collaboration with Wikipedia, to usher in a new generation of open development of crowdsourcing tools.

Do you want to make a difference in government? Apply today!

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 … [ Read all ]

Declassification Prioritization

Written on: December 2, 2013 | 5 Comments

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.

top secret stamp

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 ]

Breaking New Ground Again

Written on: September 19, 2013 | 8 Comments

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:

Hanging Out for American Archives Month

Written on: September 10, 2013 | 5 Comments

October is American Archives month, a time to raise awareness about the value of archives and archivists and to celebrate that work.  One of the ways we are participating this year will be to discuss the work of the Archivist of the United States.

As a kickoff to American Archives Month, I invite you to join us on Google+ for an Ask the Archivist Hangout.   I’ll be answering your questions on Tuesday, September 24, 2–2:30 pm, ET, from my office in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.  And if you’re not able to watch it live, the hangout will be posted on YouTube so you can check it out later.

So, what will we talk about?  That’s up to you!  Send me your questions about what it means to be the Archivist of the United States by posting them in the comments to this blog post, tweet them with the #AskAOTUS hashtag, or post them on Google+ with the same hashtag.  I’m ready to answer any questions you might have and I will even show you around my office.  I’m eager to hang out with you on September 24!

AOTUS Hangout

 Original Image: Photograph of Radio Broadcast for the March of Dimes with Margaret Truman and Others, 01/21/1948, National Archives Identifier 199642

Remember: The Hangout is on Tuesday, September 24, 2:00–2:30 pm, ET.

Post your questions … [ Read all ]

FDR’s BHAG

Written on: August 29, 2013 | 1 Comment

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…”

FDR Letter

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 ]

Happy Anniversary, Federal Register 2.0!

Written on: July 26, 2013 | 1 Comment

The National Archives, in collaboration with the Government Printing Office, publishes the Federal Register, a daily compilation of notices of public meetings, legislative hearings, grant and funding opportunities, and announcements of public interest.  In addition, it publishes proposed regulations and provides information about how to comment on these proposals—a very manual process.  On its 75th anniversary on July 26th 2010, we launched Federal Register 2.0, affectionately known as FR2, exploiting social media tools to better connect the American public with their government.  Highly graphic, clean and crisp, it is arranged in topical section to meet user demand and interest:  money, environment, world, science and technology, business and industry, and health and public welfare.

Federal Register homepage
Federal Register 2.0

The most important feature is the ability to immediately comment on proposed regulations.  A prominent green “Submit a Comment” button next to the proposal launches a pop up comments page.

FR2 Proposed Rule
Proposed Rule on Federal Register 2.0 Website

Comment form

Submit a comment on the proposed rule though Regulations.gov

Traffic on the site is up more than 36% over last year with 500k visits per month and more than 1m pages viewed each month.  In the first three months of 2013, nearly 35k comments were submitted to Federal agencies about proposed regulations.  There is no simpler means of participating in the rulemaking process in all of the Federal … [ Read all ]

The Heart of the Matter

Written on: June 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

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?”

Heart of the Matter cover

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 ]

Founders Online

Written on: June 13, 2013 | 0 Comments

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.

founders online website

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 ]

Open Government Appreciations

Written on: May 15, 2013 | 2 Comments

This week the American Society of Access Professionals (ASAP) honored the National Archives with its two highest awards. The President’s Award for Distinguished Public Service was awarded to Miriam Nisbet, Director of our Office of Government Information Services (OGIS). And the Director’s Award for Superior Public Service was awarded to the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB).  PIDB is an advisory board created by Congress to promote access to national security decisions and activities.  Our Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) Director serves as the PIDB Executive Secretary and ISOO staff support the work of the board.

The President’s Award is the highest honor that ASAP grants recognizing distinguished and sustained contributions in the furtherance of the public interest with respect to access, privacy, and fair information laws, policies, and practices.  ASAP noted Miriam’s work in FOIA at the Justice Department and then in the National Archives General Counsel’s office during the 1990’s, as legislative counsel for the American Library Association and then UNESCO in Paris.  Special recognition was focused on her work to establish and head OGIS, created by the 2007 amendments to the FOIA. In accepting the award, Miriam pointed out that she had grown up along with the FOIA and that OGIS represents the maturity of a law that is one of the hallmarks of open government and democracy.

berryman - open for business 6011066
“Open for Business,” by cartoonist … [ Read all ]