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:
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.
I’m a big fan of Wikipedia. It’s often the first place I go for information. According to a recent Pew Internet report, I’m also not alone. Forty-two percent of all Americans also turn to Wikipedia for information online.
Every month, almost 80 million people visit Wikipedia and more than 91,000 active contributors have worked on more than 17 million articles in more than 270 languages. Altogether there have been almost 450 million edits!
Wikipedia is an impressive, awe-inspiring resource. In my previous role as Director of the New York Public Libraries, I encouraged staff to contribute to and use Wikipedia. For some librarians and a few archivists — Wikipedia is sometimes not readily embraced. I’ve heard the concerns about accuracy and reliability, but there have been comparative studies that show errors do not appear more frequently in Wikipedia than its printed counterparts. By design, errors can be corrected and neutrality contested. The power lies with you to flag or change content you find incorrect or biased.
On January 22, the National Archives hosted over 90 Wikipedians at WikiXDC, the Washington, D.C. celebration of Wikipedia’s 10th anniversary. This daylong event featured lightening talks, unconference sessions, and behind-the-scene tours of the stacks of the National Archives. During the event, National Archives staff introduced our records and online resources to Wikipedians,… [ Read all ]
Change is not easy, but NARA staff members are doing it with enthusiam and we are seeing the results.
Wireless internet is now available for researchers who use our Washington, DC and College Park, MD facilities. This service is free and available to registered researchers.
On Monday, we launched the redesigned Archives.gov. With your help, we have made it easier for researchers, veterans, teachers, and visitors to find the information they are looking for. This summer, you voted and we listened.
The Redesigned Archives.gov
Later this month, we will launch Online Public Access, a prototype for a new search and display in the research section of Archives.gov. We want to encourage you to experience the new search interface and send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming Soon: Online Public Access
This month, we will also release the first National Archives’ mobile application called “Today’s Document,” based on the popular feature on Archives.gov.
Also Coming Soon: Today’s Document Mobile App
And in January, NARA staff will begin to use an internal collaboration platform. This platform will use social-media based software to enable staff to better communicate, collaborate, and build communities.
Earlier this fall, I was struck by the photograph below, located on the wall outside the Still Pictures Room in our College Park facility.
Capt. Edward J. Steichen, USNR, (retired), photographic expert on island platform, studies his surroundings for one of his outstanding photographs of life aboard an aircraft carrier. Capt. Steichen held the rank of Comdr. at this time., ca. 11/1943
After reading the caption, I discovered that the famous photographer, Edward Steichen, had worked for the military during World War II. Ed McCarter, our Supervisory Archivist of Still Pictures, told me that Steichen had worked for the Navy on the U.S.S. Carrier Lexington in World War II, as a 62 year-old. At the National Archives, we have about 30 photographs that identify Steichen as the photographer, but there are likely many more because he also served as head of a photography unit in the Air Service in World War I.
Steichen was 67 years old when he completed active duty after World War II, and during that time had to be reinstated when he had reached retirement age. In his book, A Life in Photography, he describes his experience: “Everything about an aircraft carrier is dramatic, but the most spectacular things are the take-offs and landings of the planes.”
Federal agencies’ Facebook posts, YouTube videos, blog posts, and tweets… are all of these Federal records?
Increasingly, Federal agencies are using web 2.0 and social media tools to quickly and effectively communicate with the public. These applications, sites, and tools encourage public participation and increase our ability to be more open and transparent.
The informal tone of the content, however, should not be confused with insignificance. Agencies must comply with all records management laws, regulations, and policies when using web 2.0 and social media tools.
The bulletin says that the “principles for analyzing, scheduling, and managing records are based on content and are independent of the medium; where and how an agency creates, uses, or stores information does not affect how agencies identify Federal records.” The following questions are meant to help agencies determine record status:
Is the information unique and not available anywhere else?
Does it contain evidence of the agency’s policies, business, mission, etc.?
Is this tool being used in relation to the agency’s work?
Over 20,000 votes by NARA staff on possible budget reductions
Recognition of the important role of citizen archivists
We’ve made a great start, but we have a lot more to do if we are to be well-positioned to meet the challenges we face in the 21st century.
It’s time for us to step out of our comfort zones and rethink how we operate as an agency.
A few months ago, I charged a task force to draft a plan for agency transformation. A draft plan was circulated internally for staff input. I’d like to thank the NARA staff who submitted hundreds of thoughtful comments on the proposed plan. Their insight was indispensable in the development of the final report.
Last week their final report, “A Charter for Change,” was issued to staff. The report outlines a new organizational model for the National Archives. These organizational changes are driven by a set of… [ Read all ]
Recently, I read an article and book by Charlene Li, an expert on social media and former analyst and vice president at Forrester Research. In the book, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, she states that greater openness in organizations is inevitable and is a consequence of the increasing use of social media.
As your customers and employees become more adept at using social and other emerging technologies, they will push you to be more open, urging you to let go in ways in which you may not be comfortable. Your natural inclination may be to fight this trend, to see it as a fad that you hope will fade and simply go away. It won’t. Not only is this trend inevitable, but it also is going to force you and your organization to be more open than you are today.
It’s evident that social media is breaking down barriers to communication and empowering citizens and employees to speak their minds freely. Broadcasting our opinions, views, and expressing our personality, is simple and easy on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. Li describes this new reality as a “period of fundamental social change akin to the rise of the automobile or the introduction of television.”
Her prescription for managing this new reality is “open leadership,” which means “having the confidence and humility… [ Read all ]
On July 26, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Federal Register Act by launching Federal Register 2.0. In a special event in the Rotunda of the National Archives, I will be joined by the Public Printer of the United States and distinguished guests from regulatory agencies and the open government community to introduce the web 2.0 version of the daily Federal Register.
What is the Federal Register?
The Federal Register is the legal newspaper of the U.S. government and contains rules, proposed rules, and public notices of federal agencies, as well Presidential documents. It’s an important, crucial part of our democracy. The Office of the Federal Register is a component of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Have you ever tried to find something in the Federal Register?
As you might expect, the Federal Register is dense and difficult to read whether in print or online as a PDF. It’s also difficult to find what you’re looking for.
Federal Register 2.0 takes into consideration the 21st century user and turns the Federal Register website into a daily web newspaper. The clear layout will have tools to help users find what they need, comment on proposed rules, and share material relevant to their interests. In addition to greatly improved navigation and search tools, the site will highlight the most popular and newsworthy… [ Read all ]
Since June 2009, the National Archives has made videos available on its YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usnationalarchives. We now have 292 videos available, which have been viewed over 160,000 times. Most videos are from our archival collections, including some from Presidential Libraries. Other videos represent current lectures and educational events. I hope you take some time to explore the videos and let me know your favorites. Here are my top ten videos:
10. Fourth of July at the National Archives – Montage. Check out the National Archives float, new logo, and all of the activities at this year’s celebration.
9. We Were There When Nixon Met Elvis – January 25, 2010. This is fascinating discussion with those who were present when Elvis Presley came to the White House on December 21, 1970.
8. Carl Lewis – 1987. This is a powerful short clip from a longer video created by the U.S. Information Agency.
7. Space for Women – 1981. This video features interviews with women and shows the variety of positions they hold at NASA.
6. Who’s Out There – 1975. Orson Welles narrates this NASA video exploring the possibility and implications of extraterrestrial live.
We have provided links to other websites because they have information that may interest you. Links are not an endorsement by the National Archives of the opinions, products, or services presented on these sites, or any sites linked to it. The National Archives is not responsible for the legality or accuracy of information on these sites, or for any costs incurred while using these sites.