Today, the National Archives will roll out the new, updated National Archives Catalog. For over a year, NARA staff worked with the firm Search Technologies to design and develop a robust catalog that will facilitate the Agency’s big, hairy, audacious goal to Make Access Happen. While at first glance, it doesn’t look much different from the Online Public Access (OPA) system, once our users start searching, the differences are apparent.
And now, about what users won’t see – the “under the hood” stuff. First, the catalog is powered by a completely new search engine with improved relevancy rankings and faster response times. The system has been scaled up to initially handle 100 terabytes of data with a future capacity of up to 10,000 terabytes – so we’re more than ready to handle the millions of digital images that have been created through our external partnerships. We’re also pretty excited that the catalog is the second system at the National Archives to be launched completely in the cloud and is fully integrated with the backend system that NARA staff uses to enter descriptions and upload digital content. What does that mean for our end users? Minimal down-time for system maintenance and weekly updates of new content to search and discover.
Once users start searching in the catalog, they’ll see a new look and feel to the user interface (UI). Based on user feedback, the search results have been streamlined into a tabbed interface that groups results. Users who click into a search result that has digital content associated with it will notice an improved viewer that now allows PDFs to be viewed within it, instead of having to download the file. The UI has been optimized for mobile so users can search, discover, and contribute to the catalog on any mobile device.
Let’s talk contributions. Based on the successful transcription pilot in the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, we’ve integrated transcription directly into catalog. We’re proud to note that NARA is the first archives to do that! By registering for an account, users can now not only tag records but they can transcribe them too. Tags and transcriptions will be indexed nightly and fully searchable creating an enhanced level of access that wouldn’t exist without the help of our citizen contributors.
Concurrent with the development of the catalog, NARA also developed a public read-write API for the catalog. The API will allow developer communities to use, re-use, and contribute to our data. By Making Access Happen through the API, others can make even more access happen.
We’ll be posting more about the catalog in the next few weeks, explaining new features and highlighting new content. And while we’re excited for the roll-out, the catalog is still a work-in-progress. We’ll be tweaking over time and we want you to be a part of that. Have an idea for an enhancement? Find a glitch? Email us at
firstname.lastname@example.org so we can pass it along.
Today’s post comes from Markus Most, Director of the Digitization Division at the National Archives.
Here at the National Archives, we’re working on a new, cross-office project to make accessible audiovisual records of World War I and World War II. We are digitizing public domain films and photographs so that they will be available for everyone to use, from teachers and local community groups to designers and filmmakers.
From the homefront to the front lines, these films and photographs tell stories from many different sides of the American experience. We want to enable communities to use them to tell their own stories at the local level. Our Motion Picture Preservation Lab is hard at work digitizing films from both global conflicts. We’ve made 25 films available and will make over 50 more films available this year. Additionally, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Motion Picture Preservation Lab undertook a full digital restoration ofThe True Glory. You can view a selection of films on NARA’s Youtube Channel and try your hand at transcribing and translating them on our Amara page.
A War Department film made during WWII detailing the importance of film for training, morale, and entertainment purposes.
To connect this important historical material with the widest possible audience, we’re partnering with Historypin. Historypin is a non-profit public history project that works around the globe to engage communities around local history content. Specifically for this project, Historypin is surveying customers, developing customer summaries, and helping us reach out to new digital content users. We have already worked with Historypin on many exciting projects over the last few years, including the creation of several collections and virtual tours using our holdings, such as Women’s History collections, the March on Washington tour, the 1968 Democratic National Convention tour, and an indoor view of the White House Renovation under President Truman. We have also contributed to several collaborative projects such as the Hurricane Sandy remembrance project and the Abolitionist Map of America interactive map.
We are currently in the first phase of this project. We have reached out to audiences that have already used similar records from the National Archives, as well as those with plans to run commemoration events around upcoming WWI and WWII anniversaries. This is just the first step in providing better access to these materials, and informing how we curate unique experiences around the footage. We are looking forward to seeing how this project helps more people engage with our holdings in new and unique ways!
What audiences do you think we should engage with using our new digitized content?
The National Archives 2014-2018 Strategic Plan puts forth a bold vision for NARA in providing unprecedented access to our records and promoting public participation to accomplish our goals. NARA’s digitization strategy must also present a clear path forward in meeting our goal of public access to NARA records in digital form.
We have reflected on areas in which NARA has succeeded in meeting its digitization challenges, as well as examined those areas in which we have opportunities for considerable growth.
Our revised strategy outlines some key approaches to digitization at NARA:
Cultivating partnerships with institutions and organizations from a variety of fields and business models to continue and expand on the success of our current digitization partnerships.
Encouraging public engagement in the digitization of our records by establishing a Contributor status for donated images and actively working with researchers to gather digital images of NARA holdings.
Creating a “culture of digitization” within NARA by incorporating a focus on online access into our work processes.
Today’s post comes from Larry Shockley, student intern in the National Archives’ Digital Public Access Branch
On June 2, 2014, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) announced a partnership with Imgur called the “Summer of Archives.” This joint project is designed to combine historical images with modern technology in order to give new life and increased usage to historical images.
DPLA is an all-digital library that utilizes metadata and images from many institutions all over the world, the holdings of the National Archives have played a key role with the project.
In a series called “Forever Loops,” Imgur collected short moving image files (gifs) that are displayed as continuous loops. Although the gifs encompass a myriad of subject matter such as the Apollo 11 space missions, public service films designed to aid the war effort during WW II, and musical performances from Korean War era USO tours, all of the images from the series were obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration through the DPLA.
Images taken from the NASA-created film “The Time of Apollo”, obtained by DPLA from NARA
As the DPLA collects millions of photographs, sound recordings and moving images from various sources from all over the United States, they greatly increase the distribution of these materials via social media applications and resources such as Facebook , Twitter, Tumbler, Flickr etc. As the DPLA/Imgur partnership has already shown, whenever a collaboration such as this takes place on such a vast scale, the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration are utilized in ways that appeal to a new generation.
WW II era images taken from the cockpit of an American P-38 as it attacks Germany in 1945.
The DPLA/Imgur partnership is a great example of how historical images from NARA holdings can take on new image formats, like gifs. This is likely a trend that will continue to grow and evolve well into the future.
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