The Panama Canal: Riots, Treaties, Elections, and a Little Military Madness

The National Declassification Center’s newest special project release concerns U.S. and Panamanian foreign relations: The Panama Canal: Riots, Treaties, Elections, and a Little Military Madness, 1959 – 1973.

NDC Panama Canal Records Release Poster

2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the official celebration of the completed construction of the Panama Canal by the United States. Although the Canal was officially opened to shipping on August 15, 1914, few realize that the official celebration had to be postponed due to the start of World War I a few weeks later. The official recognition of its completed construction was not celebrated until March 1915 at the San Francisco Exposition.

To celebrate this official recognition, the National Declassification Center (NDC) focused on recently declassified records in our custody that celebrate what the American Society of Civil Engineers has named the Seventh Civil Engineering Wonder of the World, the Panama Canal. The majority of Americans may have heard of the Panama Canal but few may know the United States’ role in its construction and maintenance, let alone the part that it played in our foreign relations with Panama. Debate continues to swirl around issues of why the U.S. turned the Canal over to Panama, Panamanian distrust of the U.S. Government in general, and the imperialistic image associated with U.S. employees that administered and lived in the Canal Zone.

Many historians have examined our early pre and post construction relations with Panama but not many have examined the period just prior to the Canal turnover. The records that have been recently declassified focus on that pre turnover era and may assist U.S. citizens as well as scholars in understanding the story that led to one of the biggest changes in U.S. foreign policy since the Canal was built.

Learn more and view images from this project on our website: The Panama Canal: Riots, Treaties, Elections, and a little Military Madness, 1959­-1973

The images selected and scanned for this release are a sampling of the records, 255 pages from a total of 229,160 pages. The records give insight and perspective into treaty negotiations, interactions between the American Embassy and U.S. government agencies on the Canal, the impact of Panamanian politics and elections on treaty negotiations, and the general unrest caused by the U.S. presence on the Canal Zone. The newly released records are from the Department of State.

I am very proud of this work done by our National Declassification Center, as well as the assistance from our office of Research Services and the Office of Innovation to make the release of these important records happen.

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Naturalization Ceremony

As part of the celebrations for Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, 30 new citizens from 22 nations were sworn in last week as new U.S. citizens in front of the Constitution in the Rotunda of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC.

The new citizens are from Benin, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Guyana, India, Italy, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Togo, and Vietnam.

Pledge of Allegiance. Photo by Jeffrey Reed of the National Archives.

As Archivist of the United States, I was honored to welcome these new citizens to the National Archives and hear remarks from Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and Acting Director U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services James McCament. The Honorable Beryl A. Howell, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, presided as the petitioners took the oath of citizenship.

On this same day, several National Archives locations around the country also hosted naturalization ceremonies to coincide with Constitution Day, including the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

It is a privilege to host this ceremony and witness these new citizens pledge an oath of allegiance to the United States and to honor the Constitution in front of this country’s founding documents.

Congratulations to our new citizens!

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Draft National Archives Strategic Plan

The National Archives, like all other Federal agencies, is required to produce a new Strategic Plan every four years. Our Strategic Plan establishes our Mission, Strategic Goals, and Objectives, and describes how NARA will meet our ambitious vision. We have posted a new, draft Strategic Plan and invite feedback from public and government customers, stakeholders, and colleagues in the archival, historical, and records management communities.

This draft Plan was first shared with National Archives employees on August 17. We have a tradition of engaging staff in the development of our Strategic Plan and feel strongly that every voice should have the opportunity to be heard and be involved in the process. After a week of employee feedback the National Archives is now sharing the plan with stakeholders and the public for comment.

Options for viewing the draft Plan and submitting feedback include:

The draft plan reaffirms the current Mission, Vision, Values, Transformational Outcomes and Strategic Goals (see Strategic Plan (FY 2014-FY 2018). The plan updates the agency’s Strategic Objectives to reflect its ongoing commitment to digitization and increased access, setting specific target dates for completion of initiatives. Notably the plan provides federal agencies, already moving toward digital records storage and transfer, with a deadline for submitting analog records: “By December 31, 2022, NARA will no longer accept transfers of permanent or temporary records in analog formats and will accept records only in electronic format and with appropriate metadata.”

Please submit your comments by September 1, 2017. Feedback will be collected and considered, and the draft Plan will be revised, and then shared with the Office of Management and Budget by September 11, 2017. The final Strategic Plan will be published in February 2018, and will become the agency’s official plan for Fiscal Years 2018 through 2022.

We look forward to your feedback throughout this development process.

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Join us for an Archives Hashtag Party!

Last month we kicked off a new social media campaign. The Archives Hashtag Party is a way for our colleagues in the archives community to highlight the diversity of their holdings around a fun topic. We invite you to bring your own collections and join in!

The new surprise theme in our Archives Hashtag Party will be announced the first Friday of each month through 2017. Visit our website or follow @USNatArchives to find each month’s new theme.

Share documents, photographs, and artifacts from your collections on Twitter or Instagram and use the designated hashtag. Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums, (GLAMs) and more are welcome–archives exist in every type of organization.

Archives Hashtag PartyWomen Making Bohemian Lace, July 1974. View in National Archives Catalog

We hosted the first “party” on August 4, with a theme that celebrated friendship, style, and history: #ArchivesSquadGoals. We received an amazing response from archives across the country, both large and small! The hashtag also caught on with new audiences and climbed onto the U.S. Twitter trends board.

On the day of the event, #ArchivesSquadGoals was used over 12,700 times on Twitter with over 11,000 contributors tweeting the hashtag. Over 200 peer organizations answered the call to action and shared items from their own holdings!

See these amazing contributions in our Storify stories on Twitter and Instagram.

One of our primary goals for this campaign is to boost the visibility of archives across the country. Our audience told us that they loved the spotlight on archives:

#ArchivesSquadGoals was undoubtedly entertaining, but it also showed the relevance of archives. The event turned the guiding principles of the National Archives Social Media Strategy into a dynamic event that delighted audiences, put a surprising twist on current trends, and boosted growth and community collaboration.

Social media collaborations such as these further NARA’s mission by creating a meaningful space to implement our Strategic Plan to make access happen, connect with customers, maximize NARA’s value to the nation, and build our future through our people by collaborating in an open, inclusive environment. They boost public awareness of cultural organizations, spark audience engagement and growth, and best of all, audiences love them.

We hope to see you at the next Archives Hashtag Party on Friday, September 1!

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National Archives Begins Online Release of JFK Assassination Records

Today at 8 a.m., the National Archives released a group of documents (the first of several expected releases), along with 17 audio files, previously withheld in accordance with the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. The materials released today are available online only.  Access to the original paper records will occur at a future date.

Download the files online: https://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/2017-release

Highlights of this release include 17 audio files of interviews of Yuri Nosenko, a KGB officer who defected to the United States in January 1964. Nosenko claimed to have been the officer in charge of the KGB file on Lee Harvey Oswald during Oswald’s time in the Soviet Union. The interviews were conducted in January, February, and July of 1964.

Inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, January 20, 1961
Record Group 111, Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (111-SC-578830)

This set of 3,810 documents is the first to be processed for release, and includes FBI and CIA records—441 documents previously withheld in full and 3,369 documents previously released with portions redacted. In some cases, only the previously redacted pages of documents will be released. The previously released portions of the file can be requested and viewed in person at the National Archives at College Park (these records are not online).

The re-review of these documents was undertaken in accordance with the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, which states: “Each assassination record shall be publicly disclosed in full, and available in the Collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of this Act, unless the President certifies, as required by this Act, that continued postponement is made necessary” by specific identifiable harm.

The act mandated that all assassination-related material be housed in a single collection in the National Archives and defined five categories of information that could be withheld from release. The act also established the Assassination Records Review Board to weigh agency decisions to postpone the release of records.

The National Archives established the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection in November 1992, and it consists of approximately five million pages of records. The vast majority of the collection (88 percent) has been open in full and released to the public since the late 1990s. The records at issue are documents previously identified as assassination records but withheld in part or in full. Federal agencies have been re-reviewing their previously withheld records for release, and will appeal to the President if they determine that records require further postponement.

For more information, please see the following online resources:

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NARA serves as the lead federal agency for SNAC (Social Networks and Archival Context)

October 31, 2017 will mark the end of the Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) pilot phase; an endeavor funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Since receiving the grant in August 2015, SNAC has moved forward in its goal of establishing a sustainable, community-driven and -supported cooperative for sharing descriptive archival data; archival data housed in search system which forefront the identities and stories of millions of creators of archives, special libraries and museum holdings.

As the pilot end date approached, there was still work to be done, so the cooperative leadership officially requested an extension, and Mellon granted an additional three months. It’s also important to know that SNAC was invited to apply for a second pilot phase with funding from November 2017 through October 2019. The grant proposal for the next pilot phase is pending the award grant from the Mellon Foundation at this time. The cooperative leadership and membership are excited about the prospect of SNAC’s future development.

SNAC’s user interface mosaic tumbler

NARA’s official involvement in SNAC started in 2012 when Archives staff accepted an advisory role in SNAC as the project morphed from a research and development venture into an effort to launch a new cooperative of archives data sharing. Presently, two staff from NARA’s Office of Innovation, Jerry Simmons and Dina Herbert, represent the agency as External Agency Liaisons to the SNAC cooperative. They coordinate all of NARA’s efforts for SNAC work, including active participation in the planning and development of SNAC’s governance and administration along with the seventeen partner institutions. NARA, as the Federal lead institution, forms one third of the SNAC operations effort, working closely with representatives from the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities and the California Digital Library.

From the beginning of the pilot phase in August 2015, NARA’s representatives were actively involved in SNAC’s user interface system development through consultation and software testing. Currently, NARA’s SNAC Liaison team responds to requests to test newly developed system functions, ensuring all necessary user requirements are met. Additionally, we work closely with the leadership of the SNAC Communications and SNAC Editorial and Standards Policy working groups in order to coordinate efforts and share responsibility for communicating all aspects of SNAC activity to the cooperative partnership, and to be a responsive voice to policy issues surrounding descriptive standards and use policies implemented in SNAC.

Sample SNAC record with links to archival collection descriptions

In keeping with NARA’s dedication to social media, NARA’s SNAC Liaisons are engaged in a robust Twitter project to bring exposure to SNAC’s rich content of descriptive data. Regular tweets with anniversary-focused themes have been well received in the early months of the effort. And, in keeping with the cooperative spirit, NARA SNAC Liaisons are actively teaming with social media experts from partner institutions to promote SNAC and to demonstrate its power to connect records creators with shared relationships and common life stories. Among these efforts is a special project to demonstrate the relationships between polar explorers, their personal and professional connections, their affiliations with polar expeditions, and the locations of their personal papers and artifacts.

Admiral Robert E. Peary’s SNAC record demonstrating his relationship (with a link) with ship captain and polar navigator Bob Bartlett.

In its primary role, NARA has taken the lead in development and execution of SNAC’s formal training program called the SNACSchool. Both of NARA’s SNAC Liaisons are active members of the SNACSchool Working Group along with SNAC partners from other SNAC partner institutions including Barbara Aikens, Smithsonian’s Archive of American Art; Alan Mark, George Washington University Library; Melanie Yolles, New York Public Library; and Glen Wiley, University of Miami Library. The working group formed in late 2016 with the primary mission of developing a formal training program for SNAC. The current curriculum includes modules covering basic archival authority control, searching the SNAC database, and creating and editing data in SNAC.

Training module for creating and editing SNAC records

Next week, SNACSchool will make its debut at the Millar Library on the campus of Portland State University during the Society of American Archivists (SAA) annual meeting. SNACSchool instructors will host a group of new SNAC users for a live classroom event, and another group participating remotely from several locations across the country. SNACSchool’s future will involve in-person events at large conferences such as SAA, however, a great deal of energy is now dedicated to developing a training schedule via remote events, while developing a highly flexible, self-paced learning platform for the cooperative’s future.

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Information Security Oversight Office Annual Report to the President

The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), established in 1978, is responsible to the President for overseeing the Government-wide security classification program, and receives policy and program guidance from the National Security Council. ISOO has been part of the National Archives since 1995.

Today, ISOO released online its Report to the President for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. This annual report includes information on government agencies’ security classification activities and costs, and provides an update on the implementation of the Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) program. This annual report was mandated by Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information.

FY 2016 report highlights include:

Classification Activity:

  • A 27 percent decrease in original classification activity, for a 2016 total of 39,240 decisions.
  • A 5 percent increase in derivative classification action, up to 55,206,368 decisions.

Declassification Activity:

  • Under automatic, systematic, and discretionary declassification review, agencies reviewed 102,172,703 pages and declassified 43,943,600 pages of historically valuable records. This was a 17 percent increase in the number of pages reviewed and 19 percent increase in the number of pages declassified.
  • Agencies reviewed 248,413 pages under mandatory declassification review and declassified 117,453 pages in their entirety, declassified 92,678 pages in part, and retained classification of 38,282 pages in full.

Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) background and implementation:

ISOO published the CUI Federal regulation (32 CFR part 2002) in the Federal Register on September 14, 2016. This regulation promotes the protection of CUI, appropriate information sharing, and consistent safeguarding and dissemination practices.

ISOO helps agencies implement the CUI program by conducting formal appraisals of existing agency practices, consulting with executive branch agencies and supporting elements (i.e., component agencies and non-Federal entities) on strategies and practices related to implementation, and raising awareness of key CUI program elements, timelines, and requirements through briefings, training sessions, and panel discussions.

Industrial Security:

The National Industrial Security Program Policy Advisory Committee (NISPPAC) established an Insider Threat working group to facilitate information sharing within security agencies on insider threat programs. ISOO Director Mark Bradley chairs this Committee and appoints its members.

ISOO is updating the Directive on Safeguarding Classified National Security Information (32 CFR part 2004).

As ISOO begins their next reporting cycle, Director Mark Bradley states that, “ISOO will focus on improving our methodology in data collection and will begin planning and developing new measures for future reporting that more accurately reflect the activities of agencies managing classified and sensitive information.”

Read the full Annual report, including an archive of previous annual reports, on the ISOO website: https://www.archives.gov/isoo/reports

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Discovering the “Sussex Declaration”

Only two parchment manuscripts of the Declaration of Independence dating back to the 18th century are known in the world. One is held by the National Archives and displayed to the public in the National Archives Rotunda in Washington, DC. The other was recently discovered in Chichester, England, by two Harvard University historians, who recently spoke about their discovery at the National Archives in the public program, “Discovering the Sussex Declaration”:

Danielle Allen, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and colleague Emily Sneff, Research Manager for the Declaration Resources Project identified a second parchment manuscript of the Declaration of Independence in Chichester, England. Allen and Sneff came across the “Sussex Declaration,” as it has come to be known, in August 2015, while conducting online research of the digitized records collection of the United Kingdom National Archives for Harvard’s Declaration Resource Project. This previously unknown manuscript, dating from the 1780s, is written in the hand of a single clerk.

The Declaration Resource Project set out to build a database of all known editions of the Declaration of Independence as an informative and educational resource about the Declaration. The original Declaration of Independence, also known as “The Matlack Declaration” scribed by Timothy Matlack, is preserved and displayed at the National Archives Rotunda.

Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler and Catherine Nicholson, former conservators at the National Archives, were consulted by Allen and Sneff and provided advice for the authentication of the Sussex Declaration. When the National Archives Rotunda in Washington, DC was renovated in 2001, Ritzenthaler and Nicholson had the opportunity to remove the Charters of Freedom (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights) from their earlier encasements to perform examinations and conservation treatments. Their hands are the last to have touched the Declaration of Independence.

The Sussex Declaration is currently housed where it was discovered at the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester, England. Officials there are working to ensure its proper preservation and care now that they know the valuable item within their possession.

Read more about Sneff and Allen’s discovery and the Declaration Resource Project: https://www.archives.gov/news/topics/sussex-declaration

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Searching for Amelia

On July 2, 1937, famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart went missing during an attempt at a round-the-world flight along with her navigator, Fred Noonan. Following the report of her disappearance, U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels, including the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, assisted in search operations. These efforts are detailed in the “U.S. Navy Report of the Search for Amelia Earhart, July 2-18, 1937″.

While the details around Amelia Earhart’s disappearance remain a mystery, researchers recently found this photograph within the holdings of the National Archives which they believe shows Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan alive on a dock in the Marshall Islands after their disappearance over the Pacific Ocean.

PL-Marshall Islands, Jaluit Atoll, Jaluit Island. ONI #14381. Jaluit Harbor. National Archives Identifier 68141661

There is much to learn about Amelia Earhart in the resources and records held at the National Archives. For example, a search in our Catalog reveals photographs of Earhart, documents related to the search of her missing aircraft, as well as a letter she wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt before her flight, asking for help coordinating with the Navy to refuel her plane in air over Midway Island. You can also learn more about the radio log of the last communications with Earhart on our Text Message blog.

View more National Archives resources related to Amelia Earhart on archives.gov.

While we may never know the complete story of what happened to Amelia Earhart during her fateful flight 80 years ago, this photograph is just one example of the many fascinating finds uncovered by researchers at the National Archives on a regular basis. Among the billions of records held at the National Archives, there is always something new to discover. What will you uncover in your research?

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Tweet the Declaration of Independence

The National Archives is proud to partner with Slate to co-host the #TinyDeclaration contest on Twitter. Slate originated the contest in 2010. This year, we are inviting the public (that means you!) to try to capture the essence of the Declaration of Independence in 140 characters or less, and tweet it out, using the hashtag: #TinyDeclaration.

The contest starts at noon on Monday June 26, and ends at noon on Thursday, June 29th. I will be judging the contest, along with the Editor-in-Chief of Slate, Julia Turner, and author Brad Meltzer. Finalists will be announced Friday on Slate.com.

The winner will receive some fun Founding Fathers swag from the National Archives Foundation: a July 4 t-shirt, a mug, a dapper pair of socks with images of George Washington, and of course, a copy of the Declaration of Independence. You can check out the swag and more at our shop.

July 4th Tweet the Declaration contest prize

Come on down to the National Archives on the 4th, where I will read the winning tweet aloud during our Fourth of July ceremony. Will you be the winner?

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