Do You Have Suggestions for NARA’s Digitization Priorities?

As the National Archives sets out on its ambitious goal to digitize all of its holdings, planning just how we’re going to accomplish this is critical to our success.  One of the first steps in that plan is prioritizing what will be digitized.  National Archives staff spent the early part of this summer doing just that – compiling lists and determining priorities for records that should be digitized and made available online.  The separate lists will be the basis of an Agency-wide digitization priority list. But no prioritization would be complete without the feedback and suggestions of the people who discover and use our records every day.  What would you like to see the National Archives digitize over the next few years?  Is there a particular theme, topic, or event on which you would like to see our digitization efforts focused?  Perhaps there is a specific series, record group, or collection that you would like to be made completely accessible online.  Ever come across interesting records during your research that you think would be a good candidate for digitization?  Now is your chance to tell us! From now until August 14th, engage in the discussion about digitization priorities in our online town hall on Crowd Hall.  Post ideas, provide feedback, and make suggestions about what we should digitize.  Then vote on your favorites.  Since our holdings cover a lot of topics, we’ve broken them down into broad categories.  While not a comprehensive list, hopefully, the topics below will spark some lively discussions:

  • Science/Tech/Health: Agriculture, Environment, Public Health, Science and Technology, Space and Aviation
  • Military & Veterans: Military/Wars, Veterans
  • Culture & Heritage: Civil/Political Rights, Genealogy, Ethnic Heritage, Immigration/Emigration
  • Government & Law: Diplomacy/Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, Court Records, Law Enforcement, Maritime Administration, Geography and Land Use

In addition to Crowd Hall, you’re welcome to make suggestions in the comments section on this blog post or email us at digitization@nara.gov.  We may not be able to respond to all submissions but we will be reading all of them!  What are you waiting for?  Join the discussion about digitization priorities!

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64 Responses to Do You Have Suggestions for NARA’s Digitization Priorities?

  1. Pingback: National Archives (NARA) Asks For Public Input About “Digitization Priorities” | LJ INFOdocket

  2. Robert Powell says:

    I would like to see the military records digitized first. My preference is that the digitizing occur in a chronological order if possible beginning around WW-II and moving forward in time. Ideally, anything that is digitized is word searchable. Perhaps that would allow you to create larger single files, if that makes your work for efficient. I also prefer that digitizing of military files begins with NORAD, then the Navy, the Coast Guard, the Merchant Marines, the Air Force, the Army, and lastly the Marines. I would prefer the digitizing operational and intelligence records first with personnel records of enlisted men/women being the last. In the case of personnel records of enlisted men/women, those are usually wanted by a single individual except for famous military individuals.

    Like

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you for your suggestions, Mr. Powell.

      Denise Henderson
      Digitization Division
      Office of Innovation
      National Archives and Records Administration

      Like

  3. Teri Thompson says:

    I think all records of Military from Vietnam should be available for our Guys that are trying to get compensated for agent orange please make available ships captain logs and deck loga so important to our Vietnam era Vets!

    Like

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you for your suggestion, Ms. Thompson.

      Over the past several years, NARA has been engaged in an effort to digitize Navy and Coast Guard deck logs, including those from the Vietnam era. NARA partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to digitize deck logs for the Old Weather, an online weather data project. Additionally, through the hard work of NARA staff in our archival unit and digitization lab, our internal project to digitize Navy deck logs has enabled us to make over 8,800 files (over 96,000 images) in the series “Logbooks of U.S. Navy Ships and Stations, 1941-1978” available in the National Archives Catalog. The archival unit worked off a list to digitize logs specifically requested by the Veterans Administration because they would be beneficial to our veterans. We expect to continue to make many more decks logs available online in the coming years.

      Like

  4. Marie V Melchiori says:

    I would like to see the documents from RG 120, that were sent off site, digitized.

    Like

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you for your suggestions, Ms. Melchiori.

      Denise Henderson
      Digitization Division
      Office of Innovation
      National Archives and Records Administration

      Like

  5. Art says:

    Everything

    Like

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you, Art. NARA’s goal to make as many of our unrestricted records available online as possible in the coming years.

      Denise Henderson
      Digitization Division
      Office of Innovation
      National Archives and Records Administration

      Like

  6. Harold McClendon says:

    Are you able to say where the digitized records will be displayed and whether or not we will have to pay to view the records if they are on a site such as Ancestry or Fold3? This doesn’t bother me since I have a subscription to most of the sites but the public has a need to know the plan. When this digitization project was first started it was said that after a given period of time the digitized files would be return to the National Archives for display on a website. To the best of my knowledge this never happened. Is there any plan to add the previously digitized records to your website?9

    Like

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you for interest, Mr. McClendon! As NARA increases internal digitization efforts, we are making those digital copies available via the publicly accessible National Archives Catalog. We expect the amount of holdings available online in the catalog to grow significantly over the next few years. Our prioritization efforts are a way to identify projects and align resources appropriately to determine if they’re candidates for internal digitization or digitization partnerships, in which we’ll continue to engage. Some of those partner agreements do place an embargo on the images for a set time before the National Archives is able to make them available on our website.

      The first partner images starting coming out of embargo in 2014 and we started to make those images available in the catalog. We worked very hard on scaling our catalog so that we could make the increasing volume of images available via the catalog. We’ve added over 118,000 files digitized by partners to the series “Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers who Fought In Confederate Organizations” and we will be adding even more in the coming weeks. Stay tuned – lots of exciting stuff is coming down the pike!

      Denise Henderson
      Digitization Division
      Office of Innovation
      National Archives and Records Administration

      Like

  7. Nancy Archdekin says:

    I would love to see more genealogical records digitized!

    Like

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you for your suggestion, Ms. Archdekin.

      Denise Henderson
      Digitization Division
      Office of Innovation
      National Archives and Records Administration

      Like

  8. Jeff Martin says:

    I’d vote for anything of genealogical interest.

    Like

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you for your suggestion, Mr. Martin.

      Denise Henderson
      Digitization Division
      Office of Innovation
      National Archives and Records Administration

      Like

  9. Passera says:

    Good morning,

    As a WWII Specialist of the Normandy campaign (American Sector) I would recommend that NARA convinces the ABMC (abmc.org) to scan for future generations all the internment records they have of the soldiers buried at the Normandy and Saint James American cemetery in Normandy.

    Those documents are precious giving information such as but not limited to where the soldiers was initially buried in Normandy (at the time they were 12 temporary cemeteries in Normandy).

    Why? When you have a NOK coming to Normandy I believe him or her would appreciate to know where his beloved one was initially buried to pay their respect

    A few years ago I worked at the Normandy American Cemetery, they were at the time considering destroying those documents.

    It’s not the case but they are stored with no backup and the paper is progressively fading away….

    Regards

    Rudy Passera
    Interpretive Guide
    Master of Ceremony International Commemoration
    Normandy American Heroes
    102 rue Saint Jean,
    14400, Bayeux, France
    +33 (0)6 30 55 63 39

    Like

  10. Michael Moores LeBlanc says:

    As a person who has found your Escape and Evasion of reports of such tremendous value in the study of the experiences of American airmen who had to parachute into occupied enemy territory during WII, I would very much like to see the files of those who helped them evade digitized and made available for complimentary study.

    For every American serviceman who was returned to England safely, 13 ‘helpers’ were arrested. All most all were sent to the concentration camps. An overwhelming number of these never returned and of those who did many were broken both physically or emotionally.

    Their memory should be made more widely available and be an inspiration not only to Americans but for another generation who might be called to assist America in a time of need.

    Like

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you for your suggestion, Mr. LeBlanc.

      Denise Henderson
      Digitization Division
      Office of Innovation
      National Archives and Records Administration

      Like

    • Ian Darling says:

      I agree with what Michael LeBlanc said. I have interviewed several American evaders, and their stories are exceptionally compelling. With the number of WWII veterans who are still with us dwindling every day, I think archives should do everything possible to make information about the evaders available to the public.

      Like

  11. Keith Janes says:

    There is tremendous interest in World War 2 escape and evasion nowadays as the veterans pass on and their families want to know more about their experiences. For the families of those who evaded in Western Europe, one of the most important resources is the Helper Files. So far as I know, NARA is the only place they can be accessed and making those files (many of which are extensive and highly detailed) available digitally would be a massive help to those of us on both sides of the Atlantic who wish to know more.

    Like

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you for your suggestion!

      Denise Henderson
      Digitization Division
      Office of Innovation
      National Archives and Records Administration

      Like

  12. As a Belgian voluntary researcher helping relatives of WWII servicemen/women, and specializing in Escape & Evasion, I would very much appreciate a digitization of all the Helper Files of the “ordinary” citizens of Western Europe who willingly and knowingly risked their lives in aiding downed airmen in their evasion of the enemy. There is a tremendous number of people in Europe and the United States who are – often desperately – looking for information on evaders and/or their helpers. Being able to use those files on-line would be a fantastic step forward in researching the stories of those people who forged an indelible bond of mutual gratitude.

    Like

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you for your suggestion!

      Denise Henderson
      Digitization Division
      Office of Innovation
      National Archives and Records Administration

      Like

      • Greg Lewis says:

        I would agree with Michael and Keith. The files of those who helped airmen evade capture are of great interest to many WW2 historians and family historians.
        Each helper had an impact on the lives of many people, so their files are not just personal files, they add to our understanding of many veterans’ stories.

        Thank you for taking the time to ask us our opinions.

        Like

  13. Gene Buck says:

    Three priorities for digitization:

    1) RG 15 -all bounty land warrant application files, including rejections.

    2) RG 498, escape & evasion files, esp. French, Dutch, and Belgian helper files.

    3). Rg 49 – All homestead files, including cancelled homesteads.

    Like

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you for your suggestion!

      Denise Henderson
      Digitization Division
      Office of Innovation
      National Archives and Records Administration

      Like

  14. Would love to see more Military records!

    Like

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you for your suggestion!

      Denise Henderson
      Digitization Division
      Office of Innovation
      National Archives and Records Administration

      Like

  15. Victor Schutters says:

    As the grandson of a Belgian citizen who helped a few American airmen who were shot down over Western Europe during WW2, I would be very pleased if you could give a priority to the digitization of the Helper Files.

    Like

  16. Pingback: Information Wants to Be Free. Help in the National Archives Jailbreak

  17. Dennis Zwanenburg says:

    The helper files from RG 498 Escape and Evasion would be very interesting. This part of the WW2 history is still untold, the help that people gave, but never spoke about it. The search for the story of my granddad’s givven help, already gave a whole new view on what happend in just one little Dutch village. The interest in this subject is growing, as it also reveils a part of the resistance work, where lots of people where involved in.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Steve Snyder says:

    Military & Veterans: Military/Wars, Veterans is by far the most important, especially from WW II such as Missing Air Crew Reports (MACR) and Escape & Evasion Reports (E&E)

    Like

  19. Mike Woodworth says:

    I realize we each have our own interests, but my priority for digitization would be all World War II records in general, and especially those related to the air war in Europe, including Missing Air Crew Reports (MACR), Mission Reports, and POW records.

    Like

  20. alexmorris56 says:

    naturalization records
    evidence of immigrants returning home to, say, Europe or going back and forth
    Records supplementing, replacing the lost 1890 census

    Like

  21. I would love to see the Works Progress Administration employment files from the Great Depression come online. At a time when many Americans were homeless, many traditional record sets are no good to genealogists for this time period.

    Because the WPA files are also expensive to request, $70 for anything more than 5-6 pages, digitizing them is the only way I will ever see them. I simply don’t have that kind of money to purchase a file that is quite literally worth its weight in gold.

    Like

  22. I would love to see the Works Progress Administration employment files from the Great Depression come online. At a time when many Americans were homeless, many traditional record sets are no good to genealogists for this time period.

    Because the WPA files are also expensive to request, $70 for anything more than 5-6 pages, digitizing them is the only way I will ever see them. I simply don’t have that kind of money to purchase a file that is quite literally worth its weight in gold.

    Like

  23. norwestark says:

    RG 75! Digitizing the records of Indian Affairs would greatly benefit the study of Native American history and give all Americans a better understanding of our first peoples.

    Like

  24. Sheila says:

    Please update catalog.archives.gov with the box list for WWI Records of Divisions, 1917 – 1920 arc # 301641. This catalog entry is so sadly left in the last millennium. Even the paper finding aid is more than 2 years out of date and impossible to use. The collection is a treasure trove with a wide variety of military events for everyday soldiers. I have sent in my volunteer app to work at College Park and am hopefully NARA will contact me to put my free hours of career IT skills to use at College Park.

    Like

  25. Belinda says:

    After the military records, which should receive priority, I would like to see land use and immigration records digitalized. I’m particularly interested in the formation of states and smaller communities.

    Like

  26. Matt Murray says:

    I would think starting off with the oldest or most fragile items would be the first and most logical choice. Preserving them for future ages should be the priority.

    Like

  27. Beverly Watkins says:

    Please do the finding aids first. It’s really hard to find out what records exist where. Especially since questions like “do you have X records” to the general mailbox are often answered “we don’t do research, you have to visit.” Digitized finding aids would let distant scholars, such as myself, make reasonable plans for doing our research. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Kate says:

    Why not digitize the finding aids available in the public research rooms and link to them from the catalog?

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Anon. Staffer says:

    Nineteenth century military muster rolls. They’re oversized, folded too many times, stuffed into small boxes, and have deteriorating adhesive tape along all the folds to hold them together. They’re also brittle, fragile, and make scary crispy sounds when unfolded.

    For at least the last 15 years, many of their boxes have sat in the stacks with special stickers warning that they not be pulled and served to researchers for preservation reasons. It’s the very rare regimental history researcher who can make a good enough case to be trusted with them, Most are told to make do with the Compiled Military Service Records and Records of Events, secondary sources where a good bit, (but not all) of the relevant information has been transcribed.

    Follow with the military hospital rolls and books which are also very fragile.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Hazel Betty Dingess says:

    Naturalization papers.

    Like

  31. Michele Tanberg says:

    I would like to be able to view New York Naturalization Records and also the files when naturalizations were denied.

    Like

  32. Diane Troup says:

    The oldest, most fragile records must come first, that is a given, they can’t sit any longer while you digitize personal favourites of researchers. As much as we all would like to have our preferred records done preservation should be the goal. I personally would like genealogical records (birth/death/marriage/land records) done first but realize there are many more historical records rotting in boxes. Anything in danger of being lost forever must be done first we cannot risk losing them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you for your comments, Ms. Troup. There are a number of factors going into our digitization prioritization, including use, accessibility, and conservation concerns and staff are collaborating across the agency in the process.

      Denise Henderson
      Digitization Division

      Like

  33. Marc Blommaert says:

    I fullly support Michael Moore Leblanc’s comments posted 16/7 . While captured evaders risked KZ , the helpers risked their life once captured . I believe that it is worthwhile to start digitizing these related files now that people concerned are in their nineties and can still add important information .

    Like

  34. LuVerne Haydock says:

    Genealogical records including military are my preference. I think, however, priority must be given to the oldest and most fragile first and they should be digitized in order of fragility.

    Like

  35. As my interest is in family and cultural history, I agree with the above folks who would like to see genealogical records preserved digitally, and also with the people who would like to prioritize the oldest and most fragile. Additionally, as a first-generation American, I have much interest in immigration and ethnic heritage records: America has so often been called the “melting pot” for immigrants, and I can grasp that to an extent, regarding how new immigrants are expected to adapt to American culture; however, my experience (and perhaps some of the records you hold?) shows that pockets of ethnic heritage have survived and thrived within the States, if not through language, then through food, religion, and custom. In recent history, we’ve seen clashes through misunderstandings of culture and race: through knowledge and fully understanding the past, I believe we can become a better society. Thank you for the immense work that this project will entail, and your contribution to our understanding of history!

    Like

  36. Frederic Martini says:

    I would suggest, in order of precedence:
    1. Helper files from WW II as Michael Leblanc suggested.
    2. War crimes files from WW II.
    3. Declassified OSS, CIA, and FBI files.

    Like

  37. I agree with previous comments that records needing conservation should be a priority. I often digitize entire volumes whose bindings have deteriorated to the point that pages are falling out and information along the edges of pages is being lost. That way I do not have to pull the volume again and potentially increase the damage. I work primarily with lighthouse records, many of which were damaged in the 1922 fire and cannot be pulled because of their “charred” condition. In terms of record popularity, the muster rolls should be a priority.

    Like

  38. P.S. Many thanks for digitizing the lighthouse photos in RG 26-LG. I see that a few have made it online. It is much appreciated since these photos could not be scanned by researchers.

    Like

  39. Mary S says:

    Since genealogy tops the list of “legal” Internet activities, please devote your efforts to digitizing record, log books, historical documents, etc.

    Like

  40. Hello,

    I would suggest to start with the Military, especially the:

    RG 498, escape & evasion files, esp. French, Dutch, and Belgian helper files.

    This because it contains names and refereralls to other research points. (Historical/Genealogy/etc).

    And it is an international bussiness!

    I work, besides my job, mostly on the airwar cases, which has much to do with those records.

    Robert
    http://www.stichtingurkinoorlogstijd.nl

    Like

  41. Kevin Lippert says:

    Genealogy and military records first, please.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. A Balderama says:

    I think that data pertaining to counties where the courthouse burned would be most beneficial to historical and genealogical research.

    Like

  43. SMM Warner says:

    I am particularly interested in images of American Indians, treaties with American Indians, any recordings of official correspondence with Indian agents and Washington, American Indian battle records, etc. Thank you

    Like

  44. chaimshapiro says:

    I am biased toward the Civil War- Would love to see those documents (AND PHOTOS) digitized 1st- Especially now, right after the 150th Anniversary…

    Like

  45. J.P. Ellman says:

    Your WW II Escape and Evasion of reports have been of great value in learning about experiences of American airmen who had to parachute into occupied enemy territory during WII. My father was one of those men, and since he died at a very young age, these types of records are one of the few resources I have to find out about his helpers. I would very much like to see the files of those who helped all Americans and others evade digitized and made available for complimentary study. For every American serviceman who was returned to England safely, 13 ‘helpers’ were arrested. All most all were sent to the concentration camps. An overwhelming number of these never returned and of those who did many were broken both physically and/or emotionally. Their memory should be made more widely available and be an inspiration to Americans and all who value standing up for what is right in the face of great personal danger.

    Like

    • Marc Blommaert says:

      Fully agree with your proposal

      Like

    • denisemhenderson says:

      Thank you for your comments, Mr. Ellman. NARA just released our agency-wide digitization priority list. Due to the high demand and many requests from the public, the Helper Files are indeed included among the priorities. Work has already started on them. I don’t have estimate for when they will be completed and available via the National Archives Catalog, so please revisit this blog as we’ll make sure it’s announced when they’re available.

      Denise Henderson
      Digitization Division
      Office of Innovation
      National Archives and Records Administration

      Like

  46. Sophie says:

    In my opinion the most useful archives would come from the section under Culture & Heritage – genealogy, immigration and emigration figures, heritage records. These are personally of interest to me as it helps with my genealogy research, plus I believe it is a good start to the general records as these will undoubtedly be of direct relevance to other members of the public. I like how the Ellis Island Foundation provides searchable data online, for example http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/

    Like

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