Our National History and You

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 of The True GloryYou 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?

Posted in Digitization, Films, Photographs, Preservation, Questions, Research, Social Media (Web 2.0) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Digitization Strategy now available

Today’s post comes from Markus Most, Director of the Digitization Division at the National Archives.

Based on your input, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has revised its digitization strategy, and we are once again asking for your feedback!

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.

The Past is Behind Us, The Future is Ahead. National Archives Identifier 541774


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.

So tell us, what are your thoughts? The revised strategy is available here: http://www.archives.gov/digitization/strategy.html

Post your comments on this blog post, or email digitization@nara.gov. Please send us your comments by November 14, 2014.


Posted in Digitization, Online Research | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and Imgur “Summer of Archives” Collaboration Gets By With a Little Help From NARA

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

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.

Animated gif created from WW II era images taken from the cockpit of an American P-38 as it attacks Germany in 1945.

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.

Posted in Digitization, Films, Miscellaneous, Online Research | Leave a comment

Relocation of Personnel Records to National Archives at St. Louis

Today’s post comes from Tim Enas, Chief of Textual Accessioning at the National Archives at College Park.

Staff at the National Archives at College Park are moving approximately 315 cubic feet of personnel related records to the National Archives at St. Louis.  The series being transferred complement the mission, function, and holdings of the National Archives at St. Louis.  These series document personal data and pertain to individuals, rather than organizations; and, logically belong with the records that constitute the core holdings of the National Archives at St. Louis.  This relocation to St. Louis will facilitate more efficient archival research and public access to these records.

The records transferred to St. Louis are:

Series Title: 

Panama Canal, Sailing Lists of Contract Laborers, 1905 – 1910, RG 185, A1, 138 (NARA ID: 7226554)

Panama Canal, Requests for Metal Check Issue Cards, 1930 – 1937, RG 185, A1, 139 (NARA ID: 7226555)

Panama Canal, Applications for Photo Metal Checks, July 1918 – July 1919, RG 185, A1, 140 (NARA ID: 6821421)

Panama Canal, Labor Service Contracts, 1905 – 1913, RG 185, A1, 141

Panama Canal, Records Concerning Individuals (“99” files), 1907 – 1960, RG 185, UD, 264

Panama Canal, Service Record Cards (Form 177) for Persons Employed by PCC and Its Predecessors, 1904 – 1920, RG 185, UD-UP, 51 (NARA ID: 7226556)

Disinterment Records Files, Gravesite Reservation Cards, Record of Interments, and Grave Cards, RG 319, UD-12D, 2 (NARA ID: 7543569)

Closure Date at the National Archives at College Park:  August 1, 2014

Estimated Date Available for Researchers at St. Louis: September 8, 2014

Please keep in mind that the date listed above for opening the materials is an estimate. If there is a significant change to this schedule we will post it in the consultation areas at the National Archives at College Park. You can also check the status of the records, or request these and other records at the National Archives at St. Louis, by contacting that office in one of the following ways:

E-mail: stl.archives@nara.gov or send a letter to:

National Archives at St. Louis
Attention: RL-SL
P.O. Box 38757
St. Louis, MO 63138-1002


Posted in DC-area Researchers, NARA Coast to Coast, Research | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Have Your Say: Revising the Digitization Strategy

Today’s post comes from Markus Most, Director of the Digitization Division at the National Archives.

In September 2007, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) requested public input on a Draft Plan for Digitizing Archival Materials. Incorporating feedback from the public, NARA issued the Strategy for Digitizing Archival Materials for Public Access, 2007-2016 in May 2008. The strategy has served NARA well: the online catalog has over 2 million digital objects, the public has access to over 235 million images, and there were over 1.2 billion views of NARA content on Wikipedia in FY13.

Digital Equipment Machines, 1964

We’re updating our Digitization Strategy – have your say! (National Archives Identifier 3493265)

Since the strategy was published six years ago, there have been rapid advances in many areas including social media, crowdsourcing, and our understanding of access. It is critical that our digitization strategy build on our successes, but also incorporate and take advantage of these changes. NARA is revising its digitization strategy and is asking for input from you to make sure our strategy is current.

Using the existing strategy as a starting place, what changes would you make? The current strategy is available here: http://www.archives.gov/digitization/strategy.html

Some of the areas we are considering include:

  • Expanding partnerships beyond digitization of paper and microfilm;
  • Encouraging public engagement in digitizing and describing our records;
  • Creating additional streams of digitized content into our online catalog; and
  • Non-traditional sources of funding.

Post your suggestions on this blog post, or email digitization@nara.gov. Please send us your suggestions by June 30, 2014.

Posted in Digital Government Strategy, Digitization, Open Government, Questions | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

NARA’s Open Government Plan for 2014-2016

On Friday, May 31, 2014, the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero blogged about the release of our third Open Government Plan in the post, “Innovate to Make Access Happen.” You can access the agency’s newest Open Government Plan in PDF, Word, and at Archives.gov/open.

Open Gov Plan image

Thank you for your feedback! We received more than 50 thoughtful comments and suggestions for ways that NARA can increase transparency, participation, and collaboration in the way we do our work. We have summarized the feedback that was submitted in Appendix A of the plan and provided responses to many of the suggestions we received.

The development of our plan brought together more than 30 staff members from across the agency to describe and plan our open government efforts for the next two years.

We’ve aligned the Open Government Plan to the agency’s new strategic goals, and this is reflected in the Flagship Initiative, “Innovate to Make Access Happen.” The Flagship includes our work in digitization, description, and online access for the next two years.

Within the plan, you’ll also learn about our efforts to strengthen public and employee engagement, implement the Open Data Policy, and reduce our backlog of pending Freedom of Information Act Requests. We describe our work with Federal agencies to implement guidance that addresses the electronic management of email and other records, and our ongoing efforts to streamline processes in the National Declassification Center.

Yes, the plan is 58 pages (!), but I promise you’ll learn a lot about NARA and the important ways that we work to strengthen open government.
To learn more about our open government efforts, visit Archives.gov/open.  To provide feedback on NARA’s most recent Open Government Plan, please comment below or email opengov@nara.gov.

Posted in Open Government | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Federal Register Editathon

Today’s post comes from Ben Jordi, Technical Writer/Editor in the Office of the Federal Register.

The National Archives’ Office of Innovation and Office of the Federal Register teamed up with Wikimedia D.C. to host OFR’s first Wikipedia Editathon on Friday, May 23, 2014 in our Innovation Hub.  As part of our mission to inform the American public, OFR worked with NARA’s Wikipedian in Residence, Dominic McDevitt-Parks, to begin collaborating with the Wikipedia community.  Like NARA, our goal is to go where our customers are, rather than building our technology and social media footprint around our business structure and hoping our customers can find us through the noise.

Federal Register Editathon event
Office of the Federal Register staff collaborate with Wikipedians in NARA’s Innovation Hub, 5/23/14

At OFR we are responsible for several publications, including the Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Government Manual, List of CFR Sections Affected (LSA), and the Public Papers of the Presidents, to name a few.  Each of these publications is aimed at informing the public about the business of their government and how to best find the information they seek.  In our work with Wikipedia, we hope to better connect the dots for our customers and how they find what they are looking for.  Two years ago we made a big step in that direction with our launch of www.federalregister.gov.  We sought to display the contents of the Federal Register in such a way that would make it more readable, pertinent, and understandable to our audience.

We hope our efforts with Wikipedia will teach us how the public expects to consume OFR content and hopefully, in the process, the public gets a better understanding of what we do. Some specific accomplishments from the event include a new article for the List of CFR Sections Affected, a new model for future articles about CFR parts (e.g. Title 49 CFR Part 600 – 699), and updating several more articles related to our work, including Title 35 of the CFR, Administrative Procedure Act, Executive order, and Electoral College. For this event, our goal was to make connections to the Wikipedia community and to build on those connections moving forward.  Introductions by David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and Charley Barth, Director of the Federal Register, demonstrated NARA leadership’s commitment to improving the quality of information about the Federal Register on Wikipedia. Of the ten members of the public who attended, there were representatives from Wikimedia, Wikisource, Wikidata, as well as members of NARA’s research community.  They were all very engaged and each brought a unique and fresh approach to presenting OFR content to our customers.  Our efforts moving forward will be to include Wikipedians in our weekly Wikipedia staff meetings and hopefully to determine other ways to engage the public.

Posted in Events, Research, Social Media (Web 2.0), Wikipedian in Residence | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Digitization of Alaska Records

Your participation and feedback is essential to the operations of the National Archives. As part of ongoing budget adjustments, the National Archives at Anchorage will close in the coming months, and archival records will be moved to the National Archives at Seattle.

In order to make the Alaska records more broadly available to the public, we are planning to digitize records from the Alaska field office. As valued stakeholders in the National Archives, we are seeking your participation to help select the Alaska records that should be prioritized for digitization.

To help identify which records should be digitized first, please see the list of accessioned holdings relating to Alaska**, as well as the 24 series of records from the Alaska facility that have historically received the most reference requests. You may also write-in your choice of records if it does not appear on the list.

Color post card. "Cape Prince of Wales Reindeer Herd--largest in Alaska."
Color post card. “Cape Prince of Wales Reindeer Herd–largest in Alaska.” National Archives Identifier 297780

After we receive your feedback, NARA will also take into consideration access and use restrictions, preservation issues, series size, and ease of digitization when determining the final prioritization. Your participation will also help NARA better understand the interests and needs of researchers and stakeholders, as well as further participation and transparency in an open government.

We welcome your feedback as comments on this blog post. Alternatively, you can send feedback in an email to digitization@nara.gov. We would like your input by June 30th.

Thank you for your continued interest and participation.

**The list of accessioned holdings relating to Alaska was updated on 5/27/14 to include Creating Organization.

Posted in Digitization, NARA Coast to Coast, Open Government, Research | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Calling Citizen Archivists to Crowdsource Video Captions!

One of the chief goals of the National Archives is making our records- regardless of format- more accessible.  Sometimes this means digitizing records and adding them to our catalog, but it also means creating ways for all US citizens to experience our collections.  Accessibility of videos for the hearing impaired is very important to us, which is why we are pleased to tell you that the National Archives can now be found on Amara!

The US National Archives on Amara

Amara is an online resource that gives individuals, communities, and larger organizations the power to overcome accessibility and language barriers for online videos.  This unique tool is simple to use, collaborative, and fun to use! Join the National Archives team on Amara and help us caption our videos. It’s easy to join; just find a video that interests you, and start captioning!

Posted in Social Media (Web 2.0) | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments