Archive for the ‘Open Government’ Category

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:

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
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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 ]

“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

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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 ]