Increasing NARA use of social media–good news, but still much room for improvement

Coincidentally, there is good news to report on our National Archives’ use of social media in the same week that I’m wrapping up the series of blog posts that asks for reader suggestions about how NARA can increase its interactivity, transparency, and openness. If you have ideas or suggestions for how NARA could be making better use of social media such as blogs, social networks (like Facebook and MySpace), Flickr, YouTube, SecondLife, podcasting, or Twitter, etc., please leave your ideas in the comments.

Today marked the re-launch of NARA’s first blog, now known as Records Express:

the official blog of the National Records Management Program (NRMP) at the National Archives. The NRMP provides records management leadership, oversight, guidance, and service to Federal agencies so they will appropriately manage their records. As a result of that work, NARA can properly preserve and provide access to records that document the national experience and protect legal rights.

While the audience for this blog may not be as large as the audience for more researcher-oriented topics, it is great to see NARA produce a blog for this more targeted and specialized audience. Given the embrace of archivists and librarians contributing to blogs at the New York Public Library under David Ferriero’s leadership, we hope we can see the same kind of activity at NARA soon. (Note in particular the use of “blog channels” at NYPL, and the variety of topics covered, and imagine what would be possible with NARA’s equally diverse collections.)

While NARA has made a great deal of progress recently in creating a presence on most major social media sites, I still think that in general their participation lacks the kind of sophistication we see from many other national archives, museums, and libraries. They are using the tools and sharing content, but I have the impression that there is no overall strategy for what material is shared or what the goals are. I would like to see NARA follow the model presented by the Smithsonian in Smithsonian 2.0, the open and collaborative development of the Smithsonian Web and New Media Strategy.

Do you have any suggestions for how NARA could improve their use of social media? Are there any organizations you think could serve as models in this area?

And, just a reminder, if you want to submit comments to NARA for consideration as they develop their open government plan, those comments are due by this Friday, March 19. I’ll be collecting the ideas I’ve shared here as well as the ideas shared in the comments and submitting them, and I encourage you to share your ideas too.

Long overdue round-up from around the Web

I’ve got a big backlog of things for a “round-up” post, so this will be both long and brief at the same time.

    • Previous “Best Archives on the Web” award winner, “A View to Hugh” has launched a new feature–a series of essays commissioned to accompany the regular blog posts about the work of Hugh Morton. Another innovative approach from the smart people at UNC-Chapel Hill.
    • The New York Times has a nice story about Carl Malamud’s crowd-supported digitization of NARA’s videos (which I covered here). Nice to see his efforts getting more recognition!
    • The Brooklyn Museum is taking a different approach to releasing descriptive information on the Web–open it all up, without review but provide a rating of how accurate it is. Read the whole story for yourself, it’s a great idea. (And yes, they’ve been allowing visitors to add comments to the catalog descriptions for quite a while now too.)
    • Following up on his post of a few months ago (“Tragedy of the (Flickr) Commons?“), Roy Tennant is eating his words in a new short post, “Mea Culpa: The Flickr Commons Lives.”
    • Speaking of Flickr, the images from the Documerica collection that the National Archives has posted on Flickr is getting a lot of well-deserved attention, most notably from in “The ’70s Photos That Made Us Want to Save Earth.”
    • In case you missed it on the listservs, the Denver Public Library has set up a Flickr group to share images of photographs that were stolen by James Lyman Brubaker and recovered by the FBI but have yet to find their true homes. See the group and learn more at:
    • The EAC-CPF schemas have been released. If you don’t understand why that’s important, do some reading up here.
    • You can now register for the Association of Canadian Archivists’ annual meeting, to be held June 9 – 12 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I’ll be teaching a day-long workshop on (what else?) the use of Web 2.0 tools by archives. Hope I won’t be the only American attending!
    • The Jewish Women’s Archive has launched a groovy new tool, “On the Map,” a user-generated map documenting the physical landmarks of Jewish women’s history.

I’m sure I have more, but that seems like a long enough post for now. If you really want to keep up, you might want to subscribe to my Twitter feed. As I say in my little Twitter bio, I follow over 500 people so you don’t have to!

Poll results: A lot of support for institutional use of social media

Following up on the poll question I asked on Sunday, it turns out a lot of you who use social media on behalf of your institution get fairly good support for it. The poll asked the question “When do you engage with social media (blogs, Twitter, FB, Flickr, etc.) on behalf of your archives?” With a total of 66 votes as of today, here are the results:

  • All outside of work hours (1 vote)
  • Entirely within work hours (15 votes)
  • Both–more outside than in (19 votes)
  • Both–more inside than out (31)
  • I expected that the “both” categories would be the big winners, and they were, but I was a bit surprised (and pleased) to see “entirely within work hours” get as many votes as it did. Most people who commented followed up about it being a mix–they found it easier or more appropriate to do some tasks inside of work hours and some outside. Of course, at least in my experience, that’s how a lot of the rest of our work is too. But still, good to see that most people are at least doing more of this work on company time than not!

    New poll question: when do you find the time to do social media for your archives?

    I’m involved in a couple of other project rights now which is (as you may have noticed) cutting into my blogging time here. This is a temporary situation, have no fear. But, someone raised a question in one of those venues that I think all of you might be able to help answer. When do you find the time to engage in social media for your archives?

    This brings up a question I have been wondering about. Blogging/FBing/Twittering archivists: are they composing and publishing during working hours, or are these projects they engage in outside of work? The archivists I’ve spoken to in person all do so outside of the office even when the account is officially sanctioned. Any thoughts?

    Vote in the poll below (and add a comment too, if you want to explain your answer), sharing whether you participate in social media on behalf of your archives within working hours, after hours, or both.

    Where do you find the time?

    When do you engage with social media (blogs, Twitter, FB, Flickr, etc.) on behalf of your archives?

    All outside of work hours
    Entirely within work hours
    Both–more outside than in
    Both–more inside than out
    Current Results

    You can now buy a copy of “Web 2.0 Tools and Strategies for Archives and Local History Collections”

    Yes, my book is now available—there’s a Neal-Schuman version (published in the US) and a Facet version (published in the UK). You can find them both on Amazon. Let me make this clear: this is not a scholarly book. I wrote the book that contained everything I thought anyone needed to know who was thinking about implementing social media in their archives, special collection, historical society, or local history collection. I wrote it to be practical. (You want a scholarly book? I’m working on that one for SAA. It’s going to be, if I do say so myself, really good. But that’s a whole different blog post.) You can see for yourself by looking at the table of contents on the Neal-Schuman site.

    As I say in my Acknowledgments:

    This book would not have possible without my own social network of friends and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter, and the wonderful community of people who have engaged in discussion of these issues with me on my blog, ArchivesNext. A friend joked that this would be a crowdsourced book, and in some ways, it is. The world of Web 2.0 is too large for anyone to keep up to date on everything that’s happening, and so I am happy to be part of a community of archivists working toward integrating Web 2.0 technology and thinking into our archival institutions.

    One of the things I’m most pleased with are the interviews with so many archivists who have successfully implemented Web 2.0 tools. These interviews are usually a couple of pages long and focus on their own experiences and lessons learned. My thanks to these lovely people who contributed interviews (in order of appearance):

    Sara Piasecki, Oregon Heatlth & Science University
    Stephen Fletcher, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Gavin Freeguard, The Orwell Prize
    Emma Allen and Joshua Shindler, The National Archives (UK)
    Heather McClenahan, Los Alamos County Historical Society
    Lin Fredericksen, Kansas State Historical Society
    Julie Kerssen, Seattle Municipal Archives
    Amy Schindler, The College of William and Mary
    Katrina Harkness and Joshua Youngblood, State Library & Archives of Florida
    Mark E. Harvey, Archives of Michigan
    Ann Cameron, Gill Hamilton and James Toon, National Library of Scotland
    David Hovde, Purdue University
    Matt Raymond, The Library of Congress
    Lauren Oostveen, Nova Scotia Archives
    Molly Kruckenberg, Montana Historical Society
    David Smith, Archives New Zealand
    Tracey Baker, Minnesota Historical Society
    Michele Christian, Iowa State University
    Colleen McFarland, University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire
    Tim Sherratt, National Archives of Australia
    Matthew Davies, National Film & Sound Archive (Australia)

    When I was writing the book I wanted to include as many real-world examples as possible to illustrate the different things archives and historical organizations are doing on the web. It was only when I was compiling the index that I realized just how many places I referenced. Here, for my amusement, and I hope yours, is a list of all the archives sites and organizations mentioned: Continue reading “You can now buy a copy of “Web 2.0 Tools and Strategies for Archives and Local History Collections””

    Online access to the moving image collections of the National Archives

    On Friday the popular blog BoingBoing published this post from “rogue archivist” Carl Malamud: “Watch America’s public domain video treasures, rescue the public domain from paywalls.” In his post, Malamud announces that he will be testifying on December 16 before the House Oversight Committee at a hearing on “History Museum or Records Access Agency? Defining and Fulfilling the Mission of the National Archives and Records Administration.” He observes that for many of NARA’s film holdings, you can purchase a reproduction on DVD from Amazon, but that there is no free way for the public to access these films. (Hence his title–that public domain films are available only behind a “paywall.”) To help provide evidence to make his case to Congress that we the people want free public access, Malamud purchased 20 of these DVDs from Amazon and has posted the films online (for free, of course). He’s hoping to use the number of hits on the films he’s posted to help make his case. Interestingly, he doesn’t mention that NARA has made some films available for free on YouTube–81 archival films, by my count. Some of these have gathered a substantial number of hits. In the “From the Archives to the Moon” playlist, for example, the film “The Eagle Has Landed” has 23,954 hits as of this morning. “The John Glenn Story -1963” has 915 views. The others in the series are less popular, ranging from 399 views to 36.

    To gather information to write a post on the issues Malamud raises, I did some digging in NARA’s online catalog, ARC. A search of ARC (within the “digital copies” tab) shows 1406 results for moving images that have digital copies available (meaning that there is a file you can download from the ARC site). Of these, 50 appear to be available on YouTube (again, based on a search of the catalog). A search indicates that 1315 of these are available for purchase from Amazon. (A search of the general catalog for the term “” limited only to moving images returns more than 2000 hits–and you can’t see more than 2000 results at a time, so I can’t say how many items in the catalog are available from Amazon.)

    A spot check of these results showed that some of these only have the first two minutes of the film available online (with the complete film available for purchase from Amazon) (see ARC #37624, for example). At least one (ARC #38908) can be downloaded and viewed from the ARC site, in addition to being available via YouTube (and for sale from Amazon). For others you can download and view the entire film from the ARC site (and order it from Amazon) but it is not available on YouTube (see ARC #38941). At least one (ARC #11703) is available on YouTube and for download, but is not listed as being available from Amazon.

    What this tells me is that NARA does have many films available for access online at no cost, but that there are (as Malamud observed) many more–perhaps thousands–that can be accessed only by purchasing a reproduction (without visiting a NARA facility). (Amazon lists 1,899 DVDs with NARA as the source. Note that many DVDs publish aggregations of many short films, which would account for the difference in numbers.) It also tells me that it’s not clear what NARA’s policy is for what digital copies of films it posts on its own website, for example, why in some cases they only post the first two minutes and in others the whole film.

    Unlike many other digitization agreements, the NARA agreement with Amazon is not available on its website. Therefore, I can’t tell what restrictions it may place on NARA about the reuse of the digital files Amazon created in making the DVDs, or even if NARA was given copies of those files.

    I think all archivists understand–as Mr. Malamud does–that archives need to charge fees for the reproduction of materials. I think we are in agreement that there is nothing wrong with NARA using Amazon to fulfill orders for reproductions of these films. What may be problematic here–as in the other relationships with NARA partners that I’ve written about before–is if NARA has access to digital copies of materials that they could be making available to the public for free and they are not doing so.

    We all know there are costs associated with digitizing film, as there are with digitizing documents and images. Given the strains on its limited budget, NARA has chosen to make these digitization partnerships one of the central parts of their digitization strategy. I wish everyone, including Mr. Malamud, luck in convincing Congress to give NARA more funds to support their own digitization of their holdings, but I am not optimistic about any budget increases in this environment to fund digitization. As I’ve said before, what I would like to see if a strong public commitment from NARA that all materials digitized by its partners will be made available for free on the NARA website as soon as the legal obligations allow it. Perhaps Mr. Malamud, a “rogue archivist,” will be able to get this kind of commitment made for NARA’s film holdings? I wish him luck at the hearing on the 16th!

    Follow-ups and things of interest from around the Web

    I’ve got the nasty cold that making its way around the East Coast, but I can’t resist posting some follow-ups and things of interest:

  • Dan Santamaria has posted audio, powerpoint, and supplementary files from the presentation by Ellen Fleurbaay and Marc Holtman (of the City of Amsterdam Archives) at Princeton University on November 2, 2009 here. This is essentially the same presentation they gave at MARAC, but if you’re interested you should take a look at all the supplemental materials available here, including the project report. Thanks, Dan!
  • As you’ve probably already heard, last Friday David Ferriero was confirmed by the Senate to serve as the next Archivist of the United States. Everyone I’ve talked to about him says he’s going to be fantastic.
  • There were two unrelated posts on blogs written by relatively new archivists that you might want to look at: Librarians, archivists, money, and a Lost Generation by Audra at The Touchable Archives blog and Feeling Inadequate? You’re Not Alone! by guest blogger Bria Parker on the New Archivist blog.
  • And, from Mashuable, Seven of the Most Inspiring Videos on the Web.
  • What’s so great about catablogs?

    Matt Herbison over at the vividly-named “Hot Brainstem” blog just posted this query:

    I just got a great challenge from my good friend and former boss Megan Fraser (currently at UCLA Special Collections):

    If you had to sum up the virtue of catablogs in one or two sentences, what would you say? Sentences consisting entirely of ‘they are awesome’ will be disqualified.

    I came up with something kind of long and boring, and I don’t want to besmirch anyone’s wording quite yet. Please submit your pitch in the comments!

    Links for catablogs-please send more.

    * UMarmot @ UMass Amherst (the original catablog)
    * Drexel University
    * Emma @ Brooklyn Historical Society (soft launch version, as of this writing)
    * Independence Seaport Museum

    I’m looking for more catablogs too–if you know of any, leave them in the comments or go ahead and add them to the Archives 2.0 Wiki. Not sure what a catablog is? Here’s my definitinon: “A catablog is a site created with blogging software that provides short descriptions of collections via blog posts. These posts can be easily tagged, categorized and updated, and can contain image and media files.”

    But, let’s see, back to Matt’s challenge. How about:

    Catablogs enable archives to quickly and easily share information about collections on the Web, with as much or as little structure as they desire. Catablogs allow descriptive information to published, tagged, categorized, illustrated, edited, discovered quickly and easily. They are one of the easiest ways possible to bring information about collections to the people looking for it.

    I’m not sure that one will win, but it’s a start. Any other takers? Share your entry on Matt’s blog and hope to hear about some new catablogs. (Hoping to have one of my own to add in the months to come …)

    So much to share, so little time …

    Some of these deserve their own posts, but since I’m not sure when that might happen, here are some things you might want to know about:

  • I see a lot of potential for archives images on Flickr in the new “Galleries” feature which lets users assemble a virtual exhibition of up to 18 Flickr images. As they say in their lengthy FAQ about the Galleries, they decided to put a cap of 18 images on each gallery to “give our members an opportunity to engage in activity that is similar to what a curator of a gallery or museum might undertake. And 18? It seems like a fine place to start.” So if you have images on Flickr, let me know if you find people are adding them to their galleries. I’d be interested to hear how people are using this. It also looks like a great opportunity for collaboration among archives to create mini-exhibits from several repositories.
  • I like this post on “Liberating Heritage Collections” by Adrian Cunningham on the Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce blog.
  • These Facebook Best Practices for Nonprofit Organizations look valuable.
  • Our colleagues at the National Archives haven’t gotten too many comments so far on their recent post, “Question: What is your favorite history-, library-, or archives-related blog?.” Why don’t you wander over there and contribute to the conversation? (Um, no, this is not an effort on my part to get you to plug my blog over there. You can mention it if you want to, but this blog is doing just fine, I’m happy to say. It’s a good opportunity to share some love for your favorite blogs with a potentially new audience, and I also think the archives community should be encouraging NARA with their social media efforts, so take a few minutes and post a link or two.) (Oh, and no, I’m not getting any kickbacks from NARA. If I were, I’d have an iPhone by now. Sigh.)
  • Joy Palmer has an interesting article in the July issue of Ariadne, “Archives 2.0: If We Build It, Will They Come?,” in which she discusses “some of the opportunities and tensions emerging around Archives 2.0, crowd-sourcing, and archival authority.”
  • I know I’ve got more to post about, but that should keep you busy for a little while, right?

    Some other cool archives blogs you should look at & things to do

    I hope this blog will always be first in your hearts ;), but just in case you’ve missed them, here are some others that I’ve found recently you might want to check out:

  • Archives, Records and Artefacts – “written by staff from Archive, Records Management and Museum Services and the Centre for Archive and Information Studies at the University of Dundee” – looks like they will have a wide range of topics, see the latest, for example
  • Practical E-Records – from Chris Prom (“to share information concerning a research project I am directing at the Center for Archive and Information Studies (CAIS) at the University of Dundee. The project aims to evaluate software and conceptual models that archivists and records manager might use to identify preserve, and provide access to electronic records.”)
  • L’Archivista – particularly good on electronic records issues
  • Sowing Culture – highlights selections from the IMLS Digital Collections & Content Project
  • Archives Outside – “A meeting place for people who manage archival collections around New South Wales” – but it’s great for the rest of us too!
  • Also, if you work with digital images, here’s a survey about DAMS (that’s Digital Asset Management Systems) you should consider taking.

    And, another reminder, please add your repository’s blog, Twitter or Facebook account, or whatever other 2.0-esque efforts you have to the Archives 2.0 wiki. You can edit this, but if you don’t care to, send a message to the wiki email and I will add it for you (but there may be a delay …).