Cultural Institutions Invited to Participate in History Hub

This post was originally published on the History Hub blog.

Last month, we were thrilled to host a few dozen colleagues from the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and other cultural institutions to discuss their potential participation in History Hub. Below we’ve provided a recap of the event, which includes information relevant to museums, archives, and other cultural institutions interested in supporting research and connections with their collections and expertise. Please reach out to historyhub@nara.gov if you’d like more information, a demo, or to discuss your organization’s potential participation. The platform is free and open to all!

Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, welcomes attendees. [Photo by Miran Grujic]

A Warm Welcome to Interested Cultural Organizations

David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, shared his hope that the technology behind History Hub will foster a new model for collaboration to benefit the American public:

“Together, we are a powerful voice for American history. With new technology and collaborative efforts, we are simply more than the sum of our parts.”  

He encouraged institutions interested in using the platform to share their views, questions, and suggestions early and often so that we can work together to make History Hub a success.

Ann Cummings, Executive for Research Services at the National Archives, shared her vision for History Hub as a place to solve the challenges faced by cultural institutions in the 21st century, with the potential to help us all to meet the evolving needs of today’s researchers.

What is History Hub?

Kelly Osborn, who leads the History Hub platform at the National Archives, summarized the background behind the development of History Hub. It started with research into how organizations can best communicate with and serve their audiences. She looked at trends in consumer expectations around immediate feedback, self-service capabilities, personalization, and a desire for human interaction. We were inspired by the success technology companies have had with online support communities that invite connections between staff, customers, and enthusiasts who bring their own expertise to the forum. Informed by these insights and models, the National Archives launched History Hub, a community of practice and crowdsourcing platform for people interested in researching history, both broadly and personally. It’s a place where people can get answers from multiple institutions as well as a community of citizen experts and historians. It’s a knowledge base that scales and improves in quality over time. And it’s a way for us to make information more “organization agnostic,” where the researcher does not have to know who has the answer before asking a question.

By creating a vibrant community on History Hub, we aim to:

  • Facilitate research and connect with new audiences
  • Enable contributions from the public and from subject matter experts of all stripes
  • Create a knowledge base that continually improves
  • Improve customer service for an audience accustomed to immediacy
  • Decrease our workload over time by increasing transparency

Who is using History Hub?

Dana Allen-Greil, Chief of Web and Social Media, presents on web visitation patterns. [Photo by Pamela Wright]

Dana Allen-Greil, Chief of Web and Social Media at the National Archives, shared data on History Hub’s current user base and web visitation patterns. History Hub has seen a steady increase in traffic and activity since launch, enabling continued growth of the knowledge base that powers the platform. With additional organizations coming on board to participate, and with search engines driving new visits as questions are answered (and then indexed by search engines), History Hub has the potential to reach and serve millions. She also described plans for user research and testing in the coming months as we continue to improve the platform and reach new audiences.

Lessons Learned to Date at the National Archives

Becky Collier, Research Services’ History Hub Coordinator at the National Archives, shared the experiences of the Research Services Focus Group using History Hub to respond to researcher inquiries. She stressed the need for establishing internal policies and processes, as well as social media training for staff. Looking towards the future, she noted that the reference staffs were excited by the potential of the platform, as well as the opportunity to collaborate more closely with other institutions.

What We’ve Heard from Organizations Interested in Participating

Darren Cole, History Hub community manager, shared common questions and concerns that have been expressed by organizations during discussions about their potential participation, as well as how we plan to address them. Questions about moderation and notification systems for participants are the most common. Attendees had the opportunity to dig into these further during the brainstorming session in the second half of the meeting.

The Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institution:

Representatives of other institutions also briefly shared their plans and perspectives on participating in History Hub:

Jeffrey Flannery, Head, Reference & Reader Services, Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress, conveyed the Librarian of Congress’ support for History Hub and the Library’s initial outline for participation. New Library of Congress experts will be joining History Hub in the new year!

Michelle Delaney, Senior Program Officer for History and Culture, Office of the Provost / Under Secretary for Museums and Research at the Smithsonian Institution, sent a note of support (she was unable to attend), stressing how History Hub represented a new and much needed collaborative approach to digital access and outreach, and further noted how it aligns closely with the Smithsonian’s strategic plan to broaden digital access and education outreach.

Brainstorming: How Can History Hub Address Your Audience Needs?

Participants were encouraged to brainstorm in small groups, sharing their ideas about how History Hub could address user needs, as well voicing their questions and concerns about implementing participation within their organizations.

Group discussions focused on four key questions:

  1. What are some common frustrations your audiences express in trying to conduct research or find information? What types of resources are your users seeking most often?
  2. How might a community forum experience help your audiences?
  3. What is the biggest benefit of collaborating with other cultural institutions on this platform?
  4. What would success look like for your institution? What concerns do you have about being successful?

Participant small group brainstorming in the Innovation Hub. [Photo by Miran Grujic]

A few common themes emerged during the discussion:

Researcher Frustrations: Knowing where to start, even down to which institution to begin at, was cited as a frequent frustration for researchers. Not knowing how or where to ask their questions is a formidable challenge and researchers find the institutional structures daunting.

Researcher Needs – Getting Started, Tailored Guidance: Researchers are looking for better guidance, in essence “connecting the dots” to getting started in hands-on research. Requests for personalized help, such as information on specific items and artifacts is common. More digitized primary source documents and online finding aids are also popular requests.

Benefits to Users: Community building was recognized as a clear advantage of the platform. The ability for researchers and other users to come together through History Hub to share ideas, resources, and answers came up several times.  

Benefits to Institutions: The ability to link related collections and topics across institutions was seen as a clear benefit of the platform. Participants also saw the potential to break down barriers not only between institutions, but within organizations as well.

Institutional Success: Participants looked forward to an improved ability to disseminate information, and getting away from email and other similar 1-to-1 interactions. They were especially hopeful of being better equipped to more fully answer the “hard” research questions.  

Institutional Concerns: Adapting the new platform to existing internal cultures and processes was a common concern among participants. The potential of the platform to “open the floodgates” of questions was mentioned frequently, especially when staff are already juggling other priorities and workloads. Addressing the varying needs of different audiences was seen as challenge, and participants were also concerned about how to measure performance, success, and other reporting requirements.

We’d like to thank all our colleagues for taking the time to come out and share their viewpoints and work with us on making History Hub a platform for everyone. We look forward to collaborating with you!

What’s Next?

Posted in Community of Practice, Events, GLAMs, History Hub, Innovation Hub, Online Research, Research, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Join us for an Hispanic Heritage Month Edit-a-thon on October 11, 2017

Hispanic Heritage Month Wikipedia Edit-a-thon announcement with Wikipedia logo

Come out to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month with a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 from 10 AM – 1 PM in the Innovation Hub at the National Archives in Washington, DC. Register for this free event on Eventbrite.

This event is hosted by Wikimedia DC, the National Archives’ Hispanic and Latino Organization employee affinity group (HALO), and the Office of Innovation.

This event will focus on Wikipedia articles related to Hispanic and Latino heritage and will highlight related resources from the National Archives. No prior experience editing Wikipedia is necessary. We will have an Introduction to Editing Wikipedia session and a discussion of Hispanic and Latino records and resources with a member of HALO. You can check out the suggested list of articles and sources on the Wikipedia meet up page for the event.

Event: Wikipedia Hispanic Heritage Month Edit-a-thon

When: Wednesday, October 11, 2017, 10 AM – 1 PM

Register: Sign up on Eventbrite or email innovationhub@nara.gov if you have questions

Who: No previous experience or advanced technical skills required!

What to bring: Photo ID; Laptop or tablet

Where: Innovation Hub, National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC.  Please use the Research Entrance to access the Innovation Hub.

 

 

 

Posted in DC-area Researchers, Events, Innovation Hub, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

How Museums and Institutions Can Use Remembering WWI, featuring the Columbus Museum

Today’s post comes from Kerri Young of Historypin, app developer on the US National Archives’ recently completed Remembering WWI tablet app.  You can learn more about the app’s initial launch on the blog of the American Association of State and Local History

Columbia Museum using WWI app with artifacts

The US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) recently launched Remembering WWI, a tablet app that enables the reuse of newly digitized and expertly preserved WWI-era films and photographs. Using these and other partner content as a basis for enrichment and narrative-building, you can create collections in a way that complements your existing WWI programming. Here are a few ideas for how you might use the app in your institution:

  • Add a selection of your own local WWI collections into the app for your community to explore (done through mapping platform Historypin)
  • Use NARA curated collections in exhibits and museum tours
  • Use the app in educational programming
  • Create collections using NARA and partner content on WWI-era themes you’d like visitors to explore
  • Download photos for reuse in museum programming

In practice: The Columbus Museum, Georgia

Since launching the app, we’ve started to hear from different institutions on ways that they might incorporate it into their WWI programming. The Columbus Museum, an American art and history-focused institution based in Georgia’s Chattahoochee Valley, has already hit the ground running. Their Assistant Collections Manager, Lauren, gave us some great examples for how the app can feed into both their educational programming and gallery tours:

On using both Historypin and the Remembering WWI app:

“Both platforms allow us to share collections that can’t always be on display. This helps protect our more delicate items, provide context for installed exhibits, and it allows people to see a snapshot of an exhibit if they can’t physically visit the museum. For example, our WWI in the Chattahoochee Valley exhibit ends on August 27. But users will be able to access many of the objects and exhibit labels long after de-installation. Additionally, our Education Department can continue to use this information to supplement tours in our permanent history gallery.”

Columbus Museum’s collection, “WWI and the Chattahoochee Valley" on app and Historypin

The Columbus Museum’s collection, “WWI and the Chattahoochee Valley,” on both Historypin and the app.

On their collaboration with local teachers:

“The Columbus Museum is part of the Muscogee County School District and, as such, has a strong connection with regional teachers. Our Education Department holds regular professional development events for teachers. These events introduce educators to resources at our museum that meet grade specific education standards. Remembering WWI will definitely be one of those resources. Teachers can use all of the collections on the app to illustrate the events of the war while also using our collection to literally bring the war home. We may create some of our own collections on the app using resources from all of the curators to share with interested teachers.”

She also shared some fantastic photos with us of the app in use at the museum:

Columbia Museum using WWI app on visitor tour

“The first shows our Director of Education giving a tour with the app. We have two paintings by Frederick Judd Waugh, a camouflage artist for the US Navy, who specialized in “dazzle camouflage.” We’re able to use the app to show images from the US National Archives’ collection “Women’s Reserve Camouflage Corps of WWI” to show visitors what dazzle camouflage was and discuss how American artists participated in the war effort.”

Columbia Museum using WWI app with artifacts“The second image shows a mess kit that we have on display next to [app partner] The National WWI Museum and Memorial’s “Food in the Trenches” collection.

 

 

 

 

 

Columbia Museum using app to add context to artifactsThe third, and last, image shows a photo from the US National Archives’ “Children’s Activities in WWI” next to a certificate for a Red Cross Auxiliary School in Muscogee County illustrating how citizens of all ages participated in the war effort.

Fun stuff: Mapping your WWI content on Historypin

As the Columbus Museum’s examples indicate, institutions can participate in this project by adding their own WWI-era collections to the tablet app. If you contribute through the dedicated Remembering WWI collection on Historypin, your items will automatically appear in the app.

Historypin allows you to map out each of your items so your audiences can engage with your content geographically (rough locations are okay, e.g. “France”). And if you do happen to know the exact location of where a photo was taken, Historypin has tools to help you overlay it onto Google Street View! We love this example from the Connecticut State Library, a participant in this project who is also spearheading their own state-wide WWI initiative:

Animated gif of historic image superimposed on modern street map photo

A submarine float travels down Maint St. in Hartford, Connecticut during WWI. Pinned by the Connecticut State Library to Historypin.

Thus, by contributing your own collections, you can leverage these two free platforms to further engage your audiences with your WWI content, while also helping the Archives build a national collection of WWI primary sources.

Here are a few great examples of institutional collections in Remembering WWI:

For a step by step walkthrough for how to contribute, see this post.

We’d love to hear ideas for how you’d like to use Remembering WWI where you are, or share how you’re already using the app, so please shoot an email to Kerri at kerri.young@historypin.org or use the hashtag #RememberingWWIapp on Twitter.  

An overview of the app’s features.You can read more about how to use the app here.

 

Posted in Digitization, partnerships, Photographs, Uncategorized, Veterans / Military | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Tips for Social Media Success

Social Media at the National Archives started almost 10 years ago with the Records Express blog in 2009, and our first strategy in 2010. Since that time we’ve grown rapidly, and the landscape of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (and many others!) has evolved as well. When we rebooted our Social Media Strategy earlier this year, one of our goals included cultivating a social media community of practice, and sharing our best practices with other cultural institutions. These Tips for Social Media Success are for that community!


Women sitting at typewriters around a table in black and white photo

NYA:Illinois:Vocational Guidance:brush-up classes to improve typing ability: group picture of woman at typewriters, 1937. NAID: 197156

Every year, more than 200 National Archives staff actively contribute to 130 social media accounts on 14 different platforms, reaching hundreds of millions of people (a major feat!) Creating that much consistently engaging content can be a challenge, so it helps to focus on some concrete goals. For NARA, the FY2017-2020 social media strategy defines those goals as telling great stories, deepening engagement, growing our audience, and cultivating an internal social media community of practice.

Tips for Telling Great Stories

  • Have a goal and vision for the kind of conversation you’re hoping to start.
  • Make sure to include a link to NARA or another trusted .gov, .edu, or .org site so that your readers can easily learn more.
  • Include an image to illustrate your message. Pictures are powerful, so make sure the overall mood of the image matches the rest of the post.
  • Talk about the history of the record and back it up with a supporting resource.
  • As a government agency, it’s important to be politically neutral; be friendly, encouraging, and diplomatic. Remember that you’re speaking as an official voice of the National Archives.
  • It’s great to be lighthearted, just make sure it’s appropriate for the context of the records you’re sharing (Presidential vacations? Yes! Memorials to serious events? Nope.)
  • Use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Whenever possible avoid using government-specific jargon or acronyms. While it’s second nature for us to refer to the agency as NARA, it doesn’t mean much to the casual reader.

Tips to Deepen Engagement

  • Tweet about topics you know and love; your passion and expertise will show!
  • Add a personal touch to a post, and talk about interesting discoveries you’ve made; readers often appreciate a human perspective.
  • Social media is a two-way street that gives the agency a human element. Respond when appropriate, but you don’t need to feed the trolls.
  • Not all posts require a response; if you see an opinion, rant, bait, etc, you do not have to reply.
  • Civil discussion, debate, and disagreement are welcome in the comments, and often when there’s a disagreeable commenter, the community corrects them and the conversation gets back on course.
  • NARA’s comment policy is here to help you! If you think a comment clearly violates the policy, or if you believe someone is trolling your social media account, contact the Social Media Team before deleting or blocking anything. When dealing with less-than-positive comments, keep the following in mind:
    • Don’t feed the trolls! In other words, try not to engage. Unless the individual is using language that clearly violates the policy or you’re getting frequent complaints from other users, it’s often best to just ignore.
    • Not all negative commenters are trolls. Many people turn to social media in the hopes of having a problem resolved. If you can help, or know of someone who can, these situations can often become great customer service opportunities.
  • Most platforms allow edits for posts, which is great for a typo or misspelling. If you see a mistake (or are called out by a user!) a quick edit and casual acknowledgment can usually remedy the situation. If you don’t have an option to edit (like on Twitter), just correct yourself in a follow up reply to the post. While it may be tempting, don’t delete your posts! It might seem like a good idea in the moment, but can lead to more complications down the road if users think we aren’t being transparent.
  • Since social media interactions are not face to face, it’s best to avoid sarcasm in our posts (we wouldn’t want someone to interpret it in the wrong way!).
  • Try to resist the temptation to set the record straight when facts are misrepresented. In most cases, the community will self-correct if you give it time.
  • AVOID USING ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS! IT COMES ACROSS AS YELLING ON THE INTERNET!

Tips to Grow Our Audience

  • Focus on quality content: strive to create posts that are relevant, timely, and have a clear call to action.
  • Set goals; determine what it is you want to achieve and where your audience is located online.
  • Listen. Pay attention to the questions and ideas that your followers are sharing. If you see trends, try to tailor some of your content to align with those general interests.
  • Some trends are also controversial topics, so consult with your colleagues to determine if they could lead to hot water.
  • While going viral can be awesome, we don’t want it to come at the expense of undermining the public’s trust in us as neutral stewards. Audience growth should always support NARA’s mission and social media goals.
  • Use relevant industry #hashtags on topics, conferences, and issues to reach your target audience, but first check out how they’re being used elsewhere online.
  • Recognized cultural or research institutions, relevant university departments, and other government agencies are fine to follow / retweet / cross-post / etc. Non-profit, non-partisan organizations with missions similar to the National Archives are a safe bet when it comes to interactions on social media.
  • While we can’t endorse non-government products or events, it’s fine to share updates about programs or events related to the Archives. For instance, if your location is hosting a book talk, feel free to invite your followers and let them know that the author will be signing copies afterwards. If you’re ever uncertain about where the line is, just email the Social Media Team.

Join Our Community of Practice

  • Use the Social Media and Digital Public Engagement ICN page to share ideas, ask questions, and connect with other social media account owners
  • Join the agency wide bi-weekly social media meetings to share ideas and learn new skills. Meetings are co-hosted by Office of Innovation’s Social Media Team, Communications, and the Office of Presidential Libraries and open to any staff interested in social media at NARA. Check the ICN group for current dates, times, and call-in numbers or to review notes from past meetings.
  • Get to know your environment. Following accounts run by other NARA offices and cultural institutions is a great way to become familiar with tone.
  • Have a second set of eyes. If a post feels like it touches a hot topic, have a second person review it—text, hashtag, and image together—before posting.
  • NARA’s Social Media Team (located at Archives II in the Office of Innovation), can help you:
    • Set up new social media accounts (fill out a project proposal form and email it to socialmedia@nara.gov)
    • Work with general counsel to negotiate and amend a Terms of Service Agreement with a new platform you want to join (browse NARA’s signed TOS list)
    • Determine comment policy violations
    • Troubleshoot technical problems
    • Brainstorm ideas for campaigns, a use case for a tool, or general social media ideas
    • Support Twitter chats, Instameets, and other campaigns (big or small!)
    • Contact platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.
    • Connect with other staff for collaboration on a project
  • NARA’s Communications Team (located at Archives I in the Office of Public and Media Communications) manages the main @USNatArchives accounts on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram, and can help:
    • Help review posts that may touch on a hot topic and need a second set of eyes
    • Amplify your post/message with a boost from NARA’s main accounts
    • Connect you to agency-wide campaigns on social media
    • Answer a press inquiry or respond to a reporter who may contact you through your social media account (email public.affairs@nara.gov)

What Shouldn’t I Say?

  • Since social media content can cover an array of topics, sometimes it’s helpful to know what type of content is off limits.
  • If you think your post might be in one of these categories, hold off from posting:
    • partisan or politically biased
    • violates the Hatch Act
    • endorses or denigrates a religion
    • denigrates a particular demographic group
    • contains personal attacks
    • abusive, threatening, unlawful, harassing, discriminatory, libelous, obscene, false, or pornographic
    • infringes on the privacy or rights of any person
    • violates any other NARA policy or federal law
    • contains content that is privileged, confidential, private, sensitive, non-public, pre-decisional, (including financial information) or in violation of any rights, such as copyrights.
  • If you’re ever unsure if your post could fall into one of these categories, just send it to the Social Media Team before posting.

Want a quick checklist to put on your desk? Here you go!

Social Media Success Checklist

Posted in Community of Practice, Social Media (Web 2.0) | Tagged | 9 Comments

How to participate in the US National Archives’ Remembering WWI: A Guide for Local Institutions

Today’s post comes from Kerri Young of Historypin, app developer on the US National Archives’ recently completed Remembering WWI tablet app.  You can learn more about the app’s initial launch on the blog of the American Association of State and Local History.

The National Archives has collaborated with the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Museum of American History, and the National WWI Museum and Memorial to build the collection of primary source content available in the Remembering WWI app. Now, we also invite your local institution to contribute.

Why?

Remembering WWI is a national collaborative effort, aimed at helping teachers and local institutions easily explore a rich collection of WWI film and photo primary sources from the US National Archives (NARA) and aforementioned national partners. Collection-creation is at the heart of the app experience, where in addition to exploring teachers and institutions can reuse this content to create their own WWI narratives. By contributing your own content, you can help contextualize the experience of WWI at the local level and grow this national collection of WWI primary sources. Institutions who contribute their own materials will also be able to reuse NARA and other institutional content to enhance the narratives within their own in-app collections, for use locally in their own centenary programming or museum tours for example.

What kinds of materials can I contribute?

We currently have WWI-related photographs, films, and objects (photos of uniforms, equipment, etc) in the app. Other scanned materials, such as letters and other documents in your collection, are also welcome.

Where do I upload?

If you are interested in adding content to the app, you will need to upload through Historypin. You cannot upload through the app itself. Any material appearing in the Historypin Remembering WWI collection will appear in the app.

Remembering WWI collection on Historypin

The Remembering WWI collection on Historypin. Any collection you create here will automatically appear in the app.

What are the steps?

1. Are you uploading large amounts of content? If yes, you’ll want to use Historypin’s bulk uploader where you can easily gather your photo or film data on a CSV. Contact Kerri at kerri.young@historypin.org for more information. If no, start at Step 2.

2. Create a free Historypin account. Go to Historypin.org to sign up and create a profile on behalf of your institution.

Historypin offers several free ways to sign up for an account.

 

Before adding content, click this button within the Remembering WWI collection on Historypin to  create a blank themed collection.

3. All content must go into a themed collection. We’re surfacing all featured content in the app as curated collections to make content easily discoverable. Before doing any uploading, first create a collection by going to the Historypin Remembering WWI collection and clicking “Add a Collection.” Once you’ve added details, click “Add a pin” from within the collection to start uploading. Note that those who choose the bulk uploader will go through a different process.

4. View your content in the app or on Historypin. As you add pins to your collection, they will automatically appear in the app. To view your collection in the app, download it here. Alternatively, your collection on Historypin is there for sharing as well!

Your institution’s collection will appear here in the app’s main collection list.

 

More Resources

Posted in Digitization, Films, partnerships, Veterans / Military | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Partnership Agreement for Public Comment

Over the last decade, NARA has engaged in digitization partnerships to increase digital access to the records in our custody and we continue to look for opportunities to grow those partnerships. We are pleased to announce a new partnership agreement with the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

The DAR was founded in 1890 and is a non-profit, non-political volunteer women’s service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America’s future through better education for children.  To learn more, please visit their website:  http://www.dar.org/

The agreement is available for review and public comment on our Digitization Partnerships page.  To submit feedback, please email digitization@nara.gov or leave a comment below.

The agreement will be available for comment until August 4, 2017.

Please consult NARA’s Principles for Partnerships for more information about our digitization partnerships.

Posted in Digitization, partnerships, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Private Mohammed Kahn: Civil War Soldier

Today’s post comes from Kate Mersiovsky, National Archives Technician

Since I’ve become an archives technician in the Innovation Hub Scanning Room at the National Archives, I’ve seen my fair share of interesting records. Researchers have digitized the pension of presidential widow Lucretia Garfield, the pension of Harriet Tubman, and the Supreme Court cases In Re Gault and U.S. v. Edith Windsor. Recently one of my fellow technicians, Jesse Wilinski, found another unique record- the pension file for Mohammed Kahn, a Muslim soldier who served in the Civil War.

It is rare to find records of Muslim Civil War soldiers in our holdings. So far, Jesse has only encountered two pensions, and historians know of only about 250 Muslim Civil War soldiers in all. This record, therefore, sheds light on a unique perspective that is often overlooked. As a Muslim immigrant serving in a white unit, Kahn experienced challenges even more extreme than the hardships normally associated with a 19th century infantryman’s life.

Jesse is always on the lookout for unusual records and has fostered relationships with many of the researchers who come in to study our Civil War pension files. One of these researchers, Jonathan Deiss, tipped Jesse off to the existence of Kahn’s pension, which he scanned in the Hub during his lunch breaks.

Approved Pension File for Private Mohammed Kahn (alias John Ammahail), Company E, 43rd New York Infantry Regiment (SC-193744), pg. 2. NAID: 63555085

Private Mohammed Kahn, also known as John Ammahail, was born in Persia, circa 1830. Raised in Afghanistan, he immigrated to the United States in 1861. About two months after his arrival he enlisted in the 43rd New York Infantry Regiment, following a night out with friends who convinced him to join.

In his pension application, Kahn recorded the many battles he either took part in or knew to have occurred nearby, the injuries he sustained, and the duties he performed while serving as both a cook and an infantryman. A few days after the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863,  Kahn was separated from his unit and arrested in Hagerstown, Maryland, by a Union guard who brought him to the Provost Marshall’s headquarters. Though Kahn tried to explain that he was a member of the 43rd New York, the guard did not believe him, insisting that he could not be part of a white unit, as he was not a white man. Kahn was eventually sent to Philadelphia with recently escaped slaves to work, where he spent months trying to find his company or anyone else who would help him reunite with the 43rd New York.

When the Battle of the Wilderness started in May 1864, Kahn found a New York regiment – the 14th New York Infantry – that was taking a train down to the battle. In his desperation, he managed to jump on the train as it was pulling out of Philadelphia, and traveled with the 14th to Washington, DC. From the capital, he struck out on foot, following other squadrons down to the front in Spotsylvania, Virginia. He arrived on the last day of the battle and was finally able to rejoin his company in battle. Just fifteen minutes after his return, he was shot in the left hand. Despite this injury, Kahn, once healed, spent the rest of the war as a sharpshooter and ultimately served throughout almost the entire Civil War.

Want to learn more about Private Mohammed Kahn? His digitized pension application is  now available in the National Archives Catalog, where you can help transcribe his story. Visit our Citizen Archivist dashboard to get started.

If you are interested in digitizing Civil War or other pre-World War I military records, come by the Innovation Hub at the National Archives in Washington, DC. We help researchers scan military service records, pensions, bounty land warrant applications, and carded medical records, and add these scans to the Catalog. We’re open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. If you have any questions about our citizen scanning project, email us at innovationhub@nara.gov.

 

Posted in Catalog, crowdsourcing, DC-area Researchers, Digitization, Innovation Hub, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Two Steps Every Researcher Should Take

Every time I hear a story about a researcher spending money to travel to a National Archives facility only to find out the records they seek aren’t at that location, are unavailable for research, or that the reference staff are unable to assist the research in the short travel window they have available, I cringe. This is a very frustrating scenario, but it luckily it can be avoided by following these two easy steps:

Search the National Archives Catalog

Go to the National Archives Catalog and search for your research topic. If you’re having trouble finding relevant results, try narrowing your search with the refine options on the left side of the screen or by conducting an advanced search. Of course, if you have any questions about how to use the Catalog, please contact the National Archives Catalog staff.

Once you’ve found records that interest you and you decide to make a trip to a National Archives facility to view them, first confirm their availability by checking their Access Restriction(s) under “Details.” If “Unrestricted,” you should be able to view the records without issue. If “Restricted – Possibly,” “Restricted – Partly,” or “Restricted – Fully” then you may be unable to view them.

visit2

If you are interested in coming to view those records, bookmark the URL or note the National Archives Identifier (NAID) of the records. This will come in handy in the next step when you contact us.

Contact Us

Regardless of the Access Restriction(s) please contact the reference unit listed in the Catalog description under “Archives Copies.” It is very important that you contact us three or more weeks before any planned visit to give the reference staff enough time to do appropriate investigation and preparation. Some records are even stored offsite and require transfer to the research facility. If you don’t allow this time, staff may be unable to help you when you arrive.

Reference staff will be able to inform you of the availability of the records and possibly prepare them for your visit if available for research. Give them either the URL you bookmarked or the NAID you recorded. Please note, not all facilities will prepare records in advance of your visit.

 

visit1Even if you don’t find anything of interest, contact us. If you know which facility you need to visit, contact them directly (list of locations with contact information here). If you are unsure of which facility might hold records relevant to your interest, use the general contact us form. It’s possible the records you seek haven’t been described yet, or weren’t described in a way that corresponded to the keywords you entered in your search. A reference archivist will be able to help you further. Also, be sure to check our FAQs for answers to some of our most commonly asked questions.

Hopefully these tips can help you avoid some common roadblocks. Happy researching!

 

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Join us for #JFK100 Social Media Day

JFK-100-Social-Media-Day-Graphic

Join us for #JFK100 Social Media Day on Tuesday, May 23!

Archives, museums, and cultural organizations will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s birth. Learn about the life, Presidency, and legacy of JFK through social media activities hosted by the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) community.

Experts will be on hand to talk about the impact of President Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and the Kennedy White House. Whether your interests are in science and innovation, arts and culture, public service, civil rights, or peace and diplomacy, there will be so much for you to explore!

When: Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Time: All Day

Where: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube and more

How it works: Follow the hashtag #JFK100 to join in the conversations or use the hashtag to share photos, history, memories about JFK!

The full schedule of events can be found on archives.gov. We hope you can join us!

Posted in Presidential Libraries, Social Media (Web 2.0) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

World War I Social Media Day

On April 11, social media accounts from 20 different libraries, archives, and museums came together to share their World War I records and collections. Organized by the National Museum of American History, activities took place all day on Twitter, Facebook, and across the web, and the National Archives and Presidential Libraries were excited to participate!

WW1 social media day

On Facebook, archivist Mitch Yockelson shared favorite World War I photos from the Still Pictures Branch in College Park, MD.

WWI live

Later in the day in New York City, archivist Dorothy Dougherty discussed using World War I records for genealogical research.

NYC live WWI

And on Twitter, The Presidential Libraries chatted about the presidents who served during the Great War: Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower.

wwI twitter

Throughout the day, the new World War I Centennial portal on archives.gov provided a one stop shop for visitors to see photographs, documents, audiovisual recordings, educational resources, articles, blog posts, lectures, and events related to World War I, and invited citizen archivists to tag World War I posters and transcribe Harry Truman’s handwritten notes during training.

WWI portal

World War I Social Media Day was a huge success, and a great example of cultural organizations working together to tell a common story. The National Archives enjoyed participating and can’t wait for more opportunities to deepen engagement by working with partner organizations.

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