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If our Founding Fathers had Twitter (Final!)

thumbbill2We here at the National Archives noticed that many politicians these days use Twitter to deliver messages. Often this involves using numbers instead of letters, and symbols to convey a complex point in just a few words.

So we asked our readers: “what if the authors of the Bill of Rights only had 140 characters per amendment?” Last week we started counting down from Amendment X and we’ve posted the winning results below.

Archivist David Ferriero picked the pithiest tweets and the winners will receive a reproduction of the Bill of Rights, compliments of the National Archives eStore. You have three chances left to play! Today we’re tweeting the Second Amendment, and tomorrow we’re tweeting both the First Amendment and giving out a prize to the person who can best summarize the ENTIRE Bill of Rights in just 140 characters. Use #BillofRights to play and to follow along!

[ Read all ]

Amend Original Text Twitter Version Winner
X The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. Power to the People! (conditions apply, void where prohibited) @azaroth42
IX The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. Standard rights still apply. @jwt3K
VIII Excessive bail shall

‘Open’ for business

You may have noticed that things look a little different on our website today. That’s because the National Archives just received a digital makeover, streamlining our look and feel and moving some items around on the back end too. While overhauling our website may be our most visible change here, we’ve been making improvements all year to encourage openness and improve accessibility. Here are three other ways we’ve improved:

  • Social media. It’s hard to believe that in 2009 we didn’t have a single blog, Twitter account, YouTube page, Flickr account, or Facebook account. Over the past year we’ve had a veritable explosion of all these–dozens of Facebook pages, participation in Twitter contests, daily blog posts for every audience, viral videos, and millions of Flickr views–as just a few ways we’re helping to bring the Archives to you.
  • Federal Register. Earlier this year a young group of developers helped to revamp the Federal Register, America’s one-stop shop to see what’s going on in the Federal Government. Streamlined, easy-on-the-eyes and intuitive, this new website brought the Federal Register into the digital age.
  • Wiki. Our Archives Wiki just got a nod from the White House, showing up on their OpenGov website as further proof that we’re working to make your National Archives as accessible and interactive as possible. Researchers and users of all kinds
  • [ Read all ]

NARA on Twitter

In honor of our Bill of Rights Twitter Contest, we thought it was high time to review all the tweeting that goes on in the National Archives family. While our tweets may be short, they are many, and so to help you navigate the micro-blogging waters, we’ve put together a short list that describes what our separate Twitter accounts do. So, check out the list below, and follow your favorites!

  1. @ArchivesNews: Designed to be your one-stop-Twitter-shop for all things Archival, the @archivesnews Twitter feed is a hodgepodge of links to historic goodness. Think of @archivesnews as the hub of spokes in a wheel, from here you can connect to the latest Piece of History, Press Release, speech from Archivist Ferriero, document of the day or … background history on Teddy bears?
  2. @FedRegister: Consider this Uncle Sam’s personal Twitter account. Routinely updated, the Federal Register’s Twitter account is a great way to keep tabs on what’s going on in the Federal Government. Want to know what the EPA is doing to keep the air clean?  Look no further. What about the latest documents signed by President Obama? If you need to be in-the-know when you’re on the go, this is a great resource.
  3. @JFKlibrary: It’s no surprise that JFK’s most famous line fits in a Twitter post: “Ask not
  4. [ Read all ]

Join our Bill of Rights Twitter Contest

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Readers, we now live in a brave new world of abbreviation. What was once Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC. What was once the Science Fiction Channel is now SyFy. For many people, this sentence makes sense: “IMHO this is NSFW” (for the record, this post is). Even the National Archives hasn’t been spared: sometimes we call it the Natty Arches or the Chives.

In this great condensing of America, one item has been spared, however. The Bill of Rights–that great document that contains the first ten amendments to the Constitution–hasn’t been abridged by a single punctuation mark. Until now.

It’s time the Bill of Rights got a hip new upgrade and we need your help. From today through December 15–the 219th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights–we’re asking you to condense each of those amendments into separate bite-sized tweets.

The rules are simple: on the appropriate day shorten the assigned amendment down to as few words (or letters) as possible while retaining the amendment’s meaning, then Tweet us your response using the hashtag #BillofRights.

There’s no limit to how many times you post, and we promise that there will be no actual abridging of the Bill of Rights–this is just a way to think about one of our most important documents. So tweet your hearts out!

We’ve posted the schedule below, and every day on Facebook … [ Read all ]

Lincoln to slaves: go somewhere else

The issue of slavery divided the country under Abraham  Lincoln’s Presidency. The national argument was simple: either keep slavery or abolish it. But Abraham Lincoln, known as the Great Emancipator, may have also been known as the Great Colonizer when he supported a third direction to the slavery debate: move African Americans somewhere else.

Long before the Civil War, in 1854, Lincoln addressed his own solution to slavery at a speech delivered in Peoria, Illinois: “I should not know what to do as to the existing institution [of slavery]. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land.” While Lincoln acknowledged this was logistically impossible, by the time he assumed the Presidency and a Civil War was underfoot, the nation was in such duress that he tried it anyway.

By early 1861, Lincoln ordered a secret trip to modern-day Panama to investigate the land of a Philadelphian named Ambrose Thompson. Thompson had volunteered his Chiriqui land as a refuge for freed slaves. The slaves would work in the abundant coal mines on his property, the coal would be sold to the Navy, and the profits would go to the freed slaves to further build up their new land.

Lincoln sought to test the idea on the small slave population in Delaware, but the idea met fierce … [ Read all ]