Wednesday, July 22, 2009

NARA 2009 Strategic Plan

NARA hopes to make more of its holdings available online, such as this image available on Flickr The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has posted a draft of their 2009 Strategic Plan update. By law, they must update the plan at least every 3 years and the last update was done in 2006.

One interesting change since the last update is the inclusion of social media tools as a way to engage the public. This initiative is already underway. See “National Archives Photos on Flickr: FAQs” for more information about the Archive’s presence on Flickr. Interestingly, NARA has posted higher resolution images of historic documents on Flickr than on their own website. The NARA photostream is located at www.flickr.com/usnationalarchives.

A somewhat controversial subject in the Strategic Plan is NARA’s dependence on “dynamic partnerships” to digitize the Archive’s holdings. Part of NARA’s vision is that

[NARA] holdings and diverse programs will be available to more people than ever before through modern technology and dynamic partnerships. The stories of our nation and our people are told in the records and artifacts cared for in NARA facilities around the country. We want all Americans to be inspired to explore the records of their country. (Page 3. Note that the PDF image numbers differ from the page numbers present on the pages.)

On page 9, strategic goal 4 states, “We will provide prompt, easy, and secure access to our holdings anywhere, anytime.” To accomplish this goal, NARA hopes to create an online “archive without walls.” Some of the specific strategies for accomplishing this goal are

  • “For the broadest possible access, we will make digital copies of selected non-electronic records available online. We will identify these holdings in a digitization plan that sets priorities for putting these holdings online.
  • “We will work to establish partnerships with both governmental and private institutions to facilitate the availability of NARA holdings over the Internet, while ensuring that NARA obtains ownership of the digital versions.” (Page 10)

I am staunchly in favor of such partnerships as I’ve expressed in articles such as “Expanded access to NARA records.” Since writing that article we’ve seen concerns that these partnerships lack accountability and quality control. See my article, “Standards of an archive-quality digital record repository,” for a proposal that would deal with these concerns.

I’ve done a little probing since that piece and learned some archival science. I hope to write an article explaining the principal principle of archives, respect de fonds, along with its two sub-principles, provenance and original arrangement. My proposal and this principle are amazingly similar. Stay tuned…

Visit “Draft 2009 Strategic Plan” on the National Archives website to see the complete plan and leave your comments. You are invited to comment on the draft plan up through 5 August 2009.

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