Archive for the ‘Open Government’ Category

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 ]

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 ]

Capturing Living Memory

Written on: August 24, 2012 | 0 Comments

Colleen Wallace Nungari’s painting, Dreamtime Sisters, was selected as the “brand” for the International Council on Archives Congress which closes today in Brisbane, Australia. More than 1,000 archivists from 95 countries gathered to dream about the future around the theme, “A Climate of Change.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreamtime Sisters, by Colleen Wallace Nungari

 

I was particularly struck by the theme of Nungari’s artwork and the relationship to the week’s deliberations. Dreamtime, in Aboriginal culture, described the period before living memory when the earth and all living things were created by Spirits from above and below. Dreamtime stories embody the culture and customs passed down and celebrated to this day.

Against that backdrop, as the group gathered for the opening session where I was invited to speak about social media, I encouraged them keep that image in mind as we deliberated on the state of the art of preserving today’s and tomorrow’s “living memory.” Honor the past as we create the future.

Read the full text of my address at the International Council on Archives Congress in Brisbane, Australia.… [ 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:

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 records.

Here’s what I said to the crowd Saturday afternoon:

The conference had a robust backchannel of information … [ 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:

Happy Sunshine Week!

Written on: March 12, 2012 | 3 Comments

Almost 100 years ago, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote:  “Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant.  If the broad light of day could be let in upon men’s actions, it would purify them as the sun disinfects.”

I like to think that we celebrate Sunshine Week every day at the National Archives.  We have a unique role, which we describe as “preserving the past to protect the future.”  The beautiful sculptures designed by Robert I. Aitken and chiseled by the Piccarelli Brothers of the Bronx at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance echo this.  “The Past” is represented by an ancient bearded man with a scroll and “The Future is a young women with a book.  She sits atop a pedestal inscribed with “The Past is Prologue.”  That is the spirit which embodies the function we serve.

It also embodies the Freedom of Information Act which we celebrate this week.  FOIA was passed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on the Fourth of July in 1966.  Since its passage it has been used by scores of people to learn more about how our government works.  In 2010 alone, the government received more than 600,000 requests for records under the FOIA.  We are proud to have the original text of the FOIA as it was signed into law in 1966.  And we are especially proud to have it … [ Read all ]

Yes We Scan Again! The Archives chats with voters on a “We the People” teleconference

Written on: February 6, 2012 | 4 Comments

On January 10th, I blogged about the “Yes We Scan” petitions proposed by Carl Malamud’s PublicResource.org on the White House’s We The People petition platform. “Yes We Scan” calls for a national strategy, and even a Federal Scanning Commission, to figure out what it would take to digitize the holdings of many federal entities, from the Library of Congress to the Government Printing Office to the Smithsonian Institution.

I have been delighted to see the many ideas discussed in response to that blogpost. I encourage you to keep them coming!

Following that initial post, I worked with the White House Director of New Media, Macon Phillips, and the Director of Online Engagement, Katelyn Sabochik, to set up a conference call, inviting those who voted for the Yes We Scan petition (about 2,500 signers total) to further discuss this important issue and hear your ideas on how to move forward.

Sitting on the call with me were Mike Wash, NARA’s CIO; Pamela Wright, our Chief Digital Access Strategist; and Jill James, our Social Media Manager.

Eighty-five people from all over the country dialed in for the call. Eighteen participants asked questions. I want to thank you for taking the time to call in and to let us know your thoughts.

The topics included questions on everything from the magnitude of the task as hand (fyi … [ Read all ]