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Digitizing Federal Public Records
By David Ferriero
Thank you for signing a petition asking the Obama Administration to digitize all public records.
The Obama Administration believes increasing access to our collections by digitizing our records is a great idea. Our most recent efforts to do this ourselves as part of our OpenGov initiative, include the Citizen Archivist project, a Wikipedian in Residence, Tag it Tuesdays, and Scanathons. We are also moving forward on implementing the President’s recent Memorandum on Managing Government Records, which focuses on the need to update policies and practices for the digital age.
But all those things aren’t enough. Your petition, and the Yes We Scan effort broadly, calls for a national strategy, and even a Federal Scanning Commission, to figure out what it would take to digitize the holdings of many federal entities, from the Library of Congress to the Government Printing Office to the Smithsonian Institution.
These ideas bring up a host of questions that still need to be answered: What should the National Archives’ priorities be? Do we focus on preserving deteriorating paper records, still bound with red ribbons from two centuries ago? Do we make digital copies of Vietnam Era film footage? Should we focus on preserving those older paper records while citizens volunteer to digitize more recent, and better preserved, records?
The National Archives – which houses the Nation’s permanent records – is looking for your input to help answer these important questions on how we move forward. What are your thoughts on how the National Archives and other agencies should proceed? What questions should we be asking ourselves?
You can add your thoughts over on the National Archives blog, and I’m looking forward to having a longer discussion with the creators and signers of this petition on this important issue in the coming weeks– more details on that will follow.
Thank you again for your interest in this important issue. I’m looking forward to your ideas on how we can proceed with digitizing federal public records.
David Ferriero is the Archivist of the United States