Archive for the ‘Open Government’ Category

“Yes We Scan”

Written on: January 10, 2012 | 34 Comments

In September 2011, the White House launched an online petition web site, We the People, where anyone can post an idea asking the Obama administration to take action on a range of issues, get signatures, and get a response from their government.

It’s an experiment in democracy, which is generating new ideas and improving on old ideas every day. One of those rising ideas is “Yes We Scan.”

Yes We Scan is an effort by the Center for American Progress and Public.Resource.org to promote digitization of all government information in an effort to make it more accessible to the world.

Here at the National Archives, we house the nation’s permanent records, and we think increasing access to our collections in this way is a great idea. Our most recent efforts to do this ourselves as part of our OpenGov initiative, include the Citizen Archivist project, a Wikipedian in Residence, Tag it Tuesdays, and Scanathons. We are also moving forward on implementing the President’s recent Memorandum on Managing Government Records, which focuses on the need to update policies and practices for the digital age.

Wikipedia “ExtravaSCANza” at the National Archives in College Park, MD.  January 6, 2012. Source: Wikimedia Commons

But all those things aren’t enough. Yes We Scan calls for a national strategy, and even a Federal Scanning … [ Read all ]

Together We Can Do It!

Written on: December 23, 2011 | 2 Comments

Today we launch the Citizen Archivist Dashboard (http://www.archives.gov/citizen-archivist/) and encourage you to get involved in elevating the visibility of the records of the United States.

Citizen Archivist Dashboard Screen Shot

Did you know that many grade school children aren’t taught cursive handwriting anymore and can’t read cursive?  Help us transcribe records and guarantee that school children can make use of our documents.  I have transcribed one myself!

Recognize someone or someplace in one of our photographs?  Add a tag!

Have a photograph in your personal collection you want to contribute?  Upload it!

Have you been researching in the records?  Share what you’ve discovered!  Write an article and post it to the Dashboard so others can learn from your work.

This is very much a work in progress and we are interested in your ideas for improving the Dashboard.  Other activities we might include?  Send us your suggestions or comments:  opengov@nara.gov.

I am HUGE fan of the wisdom of the crowd.  Don’t disappoint me!… [ Read all ]

A Tool for Transformation

Written on: November 23, 2011 | 7 Comments

During the transformation planning process last year, we began using a variety of social media tools to invite staff discussion and participation in transforming the agency.  Staff participation has been and continues to be critical in providing new ideas as well as feedback for our transformation initiatives. As we continue to work on transforming the agency, we are carefully investing in new social media tools to sustain and increase staff collaboration and participation.

One of the tools we are preparing to roll out to staff over the first half of 2012 is a tool we are calling the Internal Collaboration Network (ICN).  What is it? The ICN is a social business software tool for the staff to more easily communicate and work together.  We are using the Jive Social Business software platform to make it happen.  Check out this short video that previews how this kind of software is helping NASA today:

 

Although we are at the forefront of federal agencies using a comprehensive social media tool for our work, we are definitely not alone. We surveyed peer organizations, looked at their lessons learned, and discussed social collaboration systems with their staff. Examples of what others are doing include: the Army’s MilBook, NASA’s Spacebook, Defense’s DoDTechipedia, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Knowledge Center.

These organizations understand the value in using … [ Read all ]

International Action On the Open Government Front

Written on: October 25, 2011 | 0 Comments

Today I am writing in from Toledo, Spain. I am pleased to be attending the 2011 Conference of the International Council on Archives (ICA). This morning I spoke on a panel with the National Archivist of Belgium, Karel Velle, and Director-General Arquivo Nacional Brazil, Jaime Antunes da Silva, for the ICA’s first plenary meeting on Open Government.

One of the contributions of the National Archives to the Administration’s National Action Plan for Open Government is to explore hosting a meeting of the national archivists of the eight founding members of the International Open Government Partnership to discuss our vital role in ensuring open government at the national level. Today’s meeting is a first step in that direction.

Here’s what I told the gathering:

Open Government Panel—the View from Washington

The philosophy of Open Government is embedded in the creation of the United States.  Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, writing from Paris in 1789, said:  “Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government…that whenever things go so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”

From the first day of his administration, President Obama has made Open Government a priority.  In a meeting with his senior staff on the day after his inauguration in January of 2009 he said:  “Transparency and the

[ Read all ]

The National Archives Celebrates the United States’ Entry into the Open Government Partnership

Written on: September 21, 2011 | 2 Comments

Yesterday, President Barack Obama unveiled the U.S. National Action Plan during a meeting in New York of the member nations of the Open Government Partnership.  Last Week, the White House also issued a Status Report on the Administration’s Commitment to Open Government.

Open Government Parnership Plan
Over the past year and a half, I’ve written a lot about how the work of the National Archives is based on the belief that citizens have the right to see, examine, and learn from the records that document the actions of their government.  The following are only a few of the areas where the National Archives is making significant contributions to strengthen open government and our democracy.

Records Management
The backbone of a transparent and accountable government is good records management.  Good government cannot be held accountable if it does not preserve – and cannot find – its records.  The exponential growth of electronic records poses multiple challenges.  The National Archives will continue to play a leadership role in finding and developing cost-effective IT solutions needed to meet the electronic records management challenges found in Federal agencies today.

National Declassification Center
The National Declassification Center (NDC) is strengthening open government by improving coordination among agencies and streamlining the declassification process throughout the Federal Government.  The NDC is leading a multi-agency effort to address the backlog of 400 million pages previously accessioned … [ Read all ]

GLAMorous

Written on: May 25, 2011 | 2 Comments

According to Alexa.com, the internet traffic ranking company, there are only six websites that internet users worldwide visit more often than Wikipedia: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo!, Blogger.com, and Baidu.com (the leading Chinese language search engine).  In the States, it ranks sixth behind Amazon.com.   Over the past few years, the National Archives has worked with many of these groups to make our holdings increasingly findable and accessible.  Our goal is to meet people where they are online.

This past fall, we took the first step toward building a relationship with the “online encyclopedia that anyone can edit,” Wikipedia.  When we first began exploring the idea of a National Archives-Wikipedia relationship, Liam Wyatt put us in touch with the local DC-area Wikipedian community.

Liam Wyatt and David Ferriero at the National Archives

Early in our correspondence, we were encouraged and inspired when Liam wrote that he could “quite confidently say that the potential for collaboration between NARA and the Wikimedia projects are both myriad and hugely valuable – in both directions.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Though many of us have been enthusiastic users of the Free Encyclopedia for years, this was our first foray into turning that enthusiasm into an ongoing relationship.  As National Archives staff met with the DC Wikipedians, they explained the Archives’ commitment to the Open Government principles of transparency, participation, and … [ Read all ]

Crowdsourcing and Citizen Archivist Program

Written on: May 19, 2011 | 3 Comments

At the National Archives, we’re always trying to think of new ways to make our historical records more accessible to the public.  We have only a small fraction of our 10 billion records online, so it’s clear we’ve got to get creative.

It’s vital that we learn how other institutions address this challenge.  One approach we’re seeing is for institutions to engage citizens in crowdsourcing or microvolunteering projects.  These projects leverage the enthusiasm and willingness of online volunteers to transcribe or geotag historical records online.

Yesterday, we hosted a public program in the McGowan Theater called “Are You In? Citizen Archivists, Crowdsourcing, and Open Government.  We heard about three innovative projects:

I encourage you to watch the video of the full program below.

Try your hand at these and other types of crowdsourcing projects and let us know what types of projects you would like to see the National Archives develop in the future.… [ Read all ]

Spies and Secret Writing

Written on: April 22, 2011 | 0 Comments

Iodite of potassium, sulphate of iron, nitrate of silver, rice starch, ferro cyanite of potassium, and even lemon juice. These are some of the ingredients necessary to reproduce the secret writing techniques described in the six documents declassified by the CIA last week as part of the work of the National Declassification Center (NDC). The Center was established within the National Archives at the direction of the President in late 2009 with the mandate to review more than 400 million pages of classified records by the end of December 2013.

The job is difficult and complex because a single document can contain classified information drawn from several agencies, and each one of these agencies may have its own standards for classifying and declassifying documents. The process has benefited from having representatives of the agencies at our facility in College Park, Maryland, so these referrals and decisions can be made quickly.

The review process has very much been driven by user demand. The prioritization of records to be reviewed was established after public meetings and online review by the user community. The results are posted on the NDC website.

So far the news is good. More than 84 million pages have passed the quality review process, the first step. Of the 14.5 million pages which have been fully reviewed, 91% were declassified and made available … [ Read all ]

Understanding Watergate

Written on: April 8, 2011 | 1 Comment

A test of a nation’s commitment to transparency and self-government comes in how it explains to succeeding generations the more difficult or controversial moments of the past.

Watergate is one such moment in our nation’s history — and a topic that is now more fully explored at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

Last week, I attended the opening of the Watergate Gallery at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California. The new permanent exhibit chronicles the events beginning in June 1971, with the leak of the Pentagon Papers and the formation of a clandestine White House group known as the Plumbers, and ends with former President Richard Nixon’s public explanations of Watergate after he left office. The exhibit is designed to help visitors make sense of the web of personalities as well as the actions and intentions at the heart of the Watergate scandal.

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A portion of the new Watergate Gallery at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

The Nixon Library arguably holds the fullest record of any Presidential administration in history with approximately 4,000 broadcast videos, 4,500 audio records, 30,000 gifts, 300,000 photographs, 2 million feet of film, 46 million pages of documents, and 3,700 hours of presidential conversations known as the “White House Tapes.”

The new exhibit on Watergate uses documents and records from Presidential, Congressional, and Special Prosecutor’s records as well … [ Read all ]

Sunshine Week 2011

Written on: March 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

This week, public interest groups, media organizations, government agencies, and citizens celebrate Sunshine Week and the Annual Freedom of Information Day. As part of Sunshine Week the White House has launched a new “Good Government” portal as a resource for citizens. At public events and congressional hearings this week, leadership of the National Archives — including myself — are participating in the dialogue around open government and freedom of information.

At the National Archives, open government is an ongoing commitment to strengthen transparency, participation, and collaboration in order to better serve the American people.

The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at the National Archives is an important symbol of both the Obama Administration’s commitment to Open Government and Congress’s vision of a better Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). OGIS serves the American people by providing mediation services to resolve FOIA disputes as well as reviewing agencies’ FOIA policies, procedures, and compliance. Their role is to advocate for the proper administration of the Freedom of Information Act itself.

For Sunshine Week, I encourage you to read the recently released OGIS report, “The First Year: Building Bridges Between FOIA Requesters and Federal Agencies,” as well as check out the Department of Justice’s new FOIA website.

ogis-report

Sunshine Week is also an opportunity to discuss the improvements we’ve made in your ability to access the … [ Read all ]