The National Archives’ Strategic Plan includes a simple, but audacious initiative: to digitize our analog records and make them available for online public access. We have over 12 billion pages of records, so yes, this is our moon shot.
To achieve this goal, we know we need to think in radically new ways about our processes, and we have started by creating a new digitization strategy. From the time we published our 2008 digitization strategy through today, we have scanned over 230 million objects. This is a huge number, but we have a long road ahead. Our new strategy pushes us further.
We know we cannot do all of this by ourselves. We will continue to collaborate and build on efforts with private and public organizations to digitize records, as well as branch out to citizen archivists, other federal agencies and institutions worldwide. We will develop clear processes and technologies to support a workflow from staff digitization efforts, as well as ensure that records arriving at NARA are accompanied by standardized metadata, and make them available online in a shorter period of time.
We will set measures and track progress for each of these approaches, because we believe we can make digital access happen and we … [ Read all ]
I recently attended the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ public hearing on broadband access, hosted at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC. I was joined by colleagues from Federal agencies, universities, museums and libraries to examine the need for high speed broadband access in America’s libraries, and how this access is essential in meeting the educational, cultural, and information needs of all citizens.
As the leader of an agency dedicated to providing access to the permanent records of the federal government, I support this initiative to increase broadband access. Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, spoke eloquently of his own experience in using archival records and the value of electronic access to those records. Broadband access is the crucial piece in this equation; we need to ensure that our holdings and content can reach the eyes of many more people in order to truly make access happen.
Watch the full recording of the IMLS Public Hearing: “Libraries and Broadband: Urgency and Impact”:
In May 2011, Dominic McDevitt-Parks joined the National Archives as our first Wikipedian-In-Residence. This put the National Archives at the forefront of many cultural institutions in partnering with the Wikimedia community.
Working for the National Archives as a part-time student intern, our Wikipedian led ground-breaking efforts for the agency. His automated-upload project provided 100,000 digital images of NARA’s records on the Wikimedia Commons for use in Wikipedia articles. He coordinated and hosted Wikimedia crowdsourcing projects that included digitization and transcription of records. He acted as a bridge between NARA and the Wikimedia community, bringing Wikipedians into the Archives, and ensuring that NARA staff attended and presented at the 2012 Wikimania Conference, as well as hosting local gatherings of Wikimedians at the National Archives.
The results? The top 4,000 Wikipedia articles that include NARA digital copies are on track to receive one billion views in 2013. That’s why it is important to work with the Wikimedia community, they share a common mission with the Archives, to provide world class access.
Dominic’s work with us at that time generated a great deal of buzz, including the following:
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…”
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 ]
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 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.
Proposed Rule on Federal Register 2.0 Website
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 ]
In early December 2009, Google announced on their blog titled “Personalized Search for Everyone” that they would be using 57 “signals” derived from your previous searching behavior in order to predict the sites you were most likely to choose in your search. Netflix, Yahoo, Facebook, and YouTube, to mention just a few, use similar predictive Internet filters based on who you are, past searching behavior, and limiting hits to what fits your profile. Eli Pariser in his book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, describes the result as “invisible autopropaganda-indoctrinating us with our own ideas, amplifying our desires for things that are familiar and leaving us oblivious to the dangers lurking in the dark territory of the unknown.” A space outside our own comfort zone where there is less room for those chance encounters that bring insight and learning.
Cass Sunstein, in his book, Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge, describes the problem as information cocoons-”communications universes in which we hear only what we choose and only what comforts and pleases us.” Where we choose to get our information, what we choose to read or listen to, and the avoidance of those channels that are outside our own comfort zone. As Pariser reminds us, “Creativity is often sparked by the collision of ideas from difference disciplines and cultures.”
Until fairly recently, social media has been seen as experimental and outside the realm of the essential work of our agency. Today that is simply no longer the case. Smart use of social media is now mission-critical to our agency. As the agency charged with advising Federal Agencies and the White House on the records implications of the technologies they are using, we must be out in front in our own use of these technologies. And all Federal Agencies and the White House are deep into the social media experience. And using social media channels in our own work, we can work more collaboratively, provide greater transparency for each other and the public, and invite the public to participate in our efforts.
We should understand the sea change that technology has brought to the American public and people around the world. According to a Pew report, 66% of online adults use social media platforms. By effectively engaging with social media tools, we are building and maintaining relevance with the public.
Many staff members at the National Archives have embraced social media–our communications staff is facile, many staff who interact with our user communities have created blogs and are tweeting, and all of our Presidential Libraries have both feet in the social media world. This is not a passing fad or a frivolous use of technology. It … [ Read all ]
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am HUGE fan of the wisdom of the crowd. Don’t disappoint me!… [ Read all ]
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:
On Friday the first Plenary Session of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) was hosted at the National Archives. The Project was launched in October 2010 at a workshop convened at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and was the inspiration of Robert Darnton, the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the Harvard University Library. The intent was to work toward the creation of “an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources that would draw on the nation’s living heritage from libraries, universities, archives, and museums in order to educate, inform, and empower everyone in the current and future generations.” A lofty goal, indeed!
In the intervening months since that original meeting, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, with funding from the Sloan Foundation, has taken on responsibilities for moving the project forward. A Secretariat and Steering Committee have been formed, as well as six work streams—audience and participation, content and scope, financial/business models, governance, legal issues, and technical aspects.
This past Thursday the work streams met for the first time at George Washington University to discuss their work, create scope statements and identify their priorities. Most importantly, each group identified and shared their overlap areas with the whole group.
On Friday more than 300 government leaders, librarians, technologist, makers, students, and others interested members of the public “occupied” the National … [ Read all ]
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