Archive for the ‘Open Government’ Category

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
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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 ]

Deck Logs

Written on: January 18, 2013 | 6 Comments

As a Navy veteran I have a particular fondness for U.S. Navy records, especially deck logs. From my first days here at the National Archives when I discovered that we had the actual deck logs from the US S Constitution including her service during the War of 1812 to the day I was handed a deck log of the USS Sanctuary, AH-17 , covering my time aboard that hospital ship in Viet Nam I have been hooked on this record series!

So, it was a real treat to learn that NOAA had approached us in April of 2011 with the idea of digitally imaging the logs of Navy and Coast Guard Revenue Cutter vessels as part of their work with OldWeather.org to document weather conditions in the North Pacific Arctic region during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In a wonderful crowd sourcing venture, volunteers working with OldWeather.org transcribe handwritten weather observations as well as log entries on vessel movement and activities. It is a win-win cross agency collaboration—NOAA gets the weather data and NARA gets the digital images for posting.

Scanning began in July 2012 and so far the logbooks of ten vessels have been completed and 65,000 images posted to our Archival Research Catalog.

Pressed flowers were found in the USRC Corwin log entry for 14 January 1891 from Port Townsend, … [ Read all ]

Transforming Classification

Written on: December 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) at the National Archives has been hard at work this year developing recommendations to the President of the United States to transform the national security classification system. PIDB is an advisory committee established by Congress to advise and provide recommendations to the President and other executive branch officials on the identification, collection, review for declassification, and release of declassified records of archival value.  In addition, PIDB advises the President on policies regarding classification and declassification of national security information.

Through their “Transforming Classification” blog, they have solicited hundreds of public comments and ideas on ways to reduce inefficiency and increase public access to improve our classification and declassification system.

The work of the PIDB embodies the principles of open government, transparency and participation, and I encourage you to provide your feedback on their blog as they continue to tackle the challenge of improving the national security classification system, especially as it relates to digital records.

Transforming the Security Classification System cover image

On Thursday, December 6th, the Public Interest Declassification Board will host an open meeting to discuss its recommendations to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System. The full Report to the President will be published online on December 6th . The meeting will focus on the Board’s fourteen recommendations, centering on the need for new policies for classifying information, new processes for declassifying information, … [ Read all ]

Releasing All We Can, Protecting What We Must

Written on: August 30, 2012 | 2 Comments

The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) of the National Archives is responsible to the President of the United States for policy and oversight of the Government-wide security classification system. An open society in which the American public is informed and holds our government accountable is a defining factor of our democracy. Our ability to share information must be balanced by the need to hold certain information in confidence for periods of time to protect from harm our citizens, our democratic institutions, and our participation in the community of nations. ISOO ensures the development and application of policies which balance the disclosure, sharing, and protection of information related to national security.

President Obama issued Executive Order 13526 in December of 2009 calling for the first ever comprehensive Fundamental Classification Guidance Review (FCGR) of classification guidance across the Executive Branch of the government. These reviews are conducted to ensure that classification guidance reflects current circumstances as to what needs to remain classified and to identify classified information that no longer needs protection and can be declassified.

The first FCGR has now been completed and the agency reviews summarizing their reviews are available at http://www.archives.gov/isoo/. Altogether, 3,103 classification guides were reviewed and 869 were either cancelled or consolidated.

This review is an investment in the future health of the classification system. It provides a means for Agency … [ Read all ]