Following up on previous posts (here and here) about the deal between Amazon and the National Archives which makes DVD’s of NARA’s video holdings available for purchase on Amazon (at a price, of course) . . . a December 19 post over on BoingBoing put out a call for people to purchase the DVDs from Amazon and send them to Carl Malamud, who will digitize them and put them online for free public access via “YouTube, the Internet Archive, and to our own rsync/ftp public domain stock footage library.”
Per a comment from Carl (who kindly linked to my posts on the topic for background–thanks!) as of December 23 all the needed videos had been purchased and donated, and so will be made available online soon. While this is a great example of creativity and crowdsourcing and we all owe Carl our thanks for his persistence on this, I’m sure we all also wish this wasn’t necessary. The issue of whether these NARA partnerships with commercial companies are the best way to support the digitization of their holdings is perhaps not as easy to resolve as we might hope. Yes, we all want NARA to make free public online access to their holdings a priority but the cost of digitization is competing with many other equally important priorities in NARA’s limited budget. I am sure that David Ferriero will give serious thought before entering into another of these kinds of digitization partnerships, and I hope that he will be open to exploring other options. There are lots of dedicated, creative, public-spirited people out there who have ideas about how to help NARA make its holdings more available to the public. I hope Mr. Ferriero reaches out and involves them as he works on developing new strategic directions for the National Archives.