Great and Good Friends: National Archives Loans Artifacts to Thai Exhibition

The National Archives played a major role in the grand opening last week of a new exhibition in Bangkok, Thailand, at the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. An international group effort, the exhibit—“Great and Good Friends: 200 Years of U.S.-Thai Friendship”—features more than 40 records and gifts loaned from the National Archives.

The items exchanged between Thai royalty and American Presidents—including ceremonial letters, head-of-state gifts, and an 11-foot facsimile of the 1833 U.S.-Siam Treaty—have never before been exhibited outside the United States. They will be featured among manuscripts, musical instruments, textiles, and other 19th-century artifacts loaned from the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution.

Members of the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles exhibit loan international install team pose in Bangkok, Thailand

Members of the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles exhibit loan international install team pose in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 3, 2018. National Archives representatives are Presidential Libraries museum collections officer Kim Koons (rear, third from left) and National Archives supervisory conservator Abigail Aldrich (Photo courtesy of Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, Bangkok, Thailand)

The “Great and Good Friends: 200 Years of U.S.-Thai Friendship” exhibit opened on March 21, 2018, at the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles  in Bangkok, Thailand, and continues through June 30, 2018. United States Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies had the idea for the exhibition.

The title of the exhibit originates from the formal greeting—“Great and Good Friends”—used by U.S. Presidents in addressing the kings of Siam when contact between the two governments was limited to envoys and letters. The friendship between the nations began when an American sea captain entered the port of Bangkok and initiated an historic association between the two nations. These ceremonial gifts, on loan from the National Archives and our Presidential Libraries, reflect the continuing strong friendship of the American and Thai peoples.

We are pleased to share these and other historic treasures, and are honored to partner with the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Meridian International, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Queen Sirikit Museum on the ‘Great and Good Friends’ exhibit.

While many of the objects are in remarkable condition, particularly for their age, some items underwent conservation to improve their stability in preparation for display. Conservation staff at the National Archives provided professional oversight of the treatment services performed on the decorative objects, textiles, and textual items from the agency.

National Archives supervisory conservator Abigail Aldrich and senior conservator Lauren Varga share several items including a silver niello bowl

National Archives supervisory conservator Abigail Aldrich and senior conservator Lauren Varga shared several items including a silver niello bowl with gold trim given by King Prajadhipok to President Herbert Hoover in 1931. From the Collection of the U.S. National Archives, Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. (National Archives photo by Jeffrey Reed)

Other related resources within the National Archives Catalog include the daguerreotype of King Mongkut and daughter, from King Mongkut to President James Buchanan, 1861; a Siamese sword with scabbard, from King Mongkut to President James Buchanan, 1861; and a letter from King Chulalongkorn to President Theodore Roosevelt. A silver-framed photograph of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, inscribed by the King and given to President John F. Kennedy in 1963, is available to view via the online Kennedy Library catalog.

For more information on items within the exhibit from other sources, see the recent Library of Congress blog post that showcases the Library’s Thai instruments on loan. For more detailed information on the “Great and Good Friends” exhibit and a history of the relationship between the two nations, see the Great and Good Friends exhibition website.

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Celebrating Information Access: Sunshine Week 2018

Sunshine Week is an annual nationwide celebration of access to public information. It was  launched more than a decade ago by the American Society of News Editors, and is embraced by journalists, librarians, concerned citizens, civil society organizations, elected officials, and government employees as an opportunity to discuss the importance of open government and its impact.

Sunshine Week 2018 logo
The National Archives and Records Administration will host several events in observance of Sunshine Week. Events include an educational symposium, a week-long transcription challenge engaging citizen archivists, and a panel discussion. Sunshine Week allows the National Archives to highlight how it is a leader in open government.

Sunshine Week 2018 at the National Archives will begin with a special program on Monday, March 12, 2018, at 1 p.m. in the William G. McGowan Theater in Washington, DC. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont will offer the keynote address entitled “Championing The Public’s Right to Know.”  Several breakout sessions featuring government leaders and experts will focus on innovation in the Federal Government, congressional digital engagement, and open data.

Throughout Sunshine Week, the National Archives will also sponsor a special citizen archivist mission focusing on transcription of the Pentagon Papers, starting on March 12. The Citizen Archivist Dashboard offers more information on how to engage in the transcription challenge.    

To round out the Sunshine Week events, the National Archives will host a panel discussion entitled “Access and Transparency—Records Held at the National Archives” on March 14, 2018, at 2 p.m. in the William G. McGowan Theater in Washington, DC. The program focuses on how to request and access the restricted and non-restricted Federal records held at the National Archives. The panel of staff experts will discuss and answer questions about their work in making records available from our executive, legislative, and Presidential holdings.

The National Archives Sunshine Week events are free and open to the public, but registration is required for the March 12 event. The program will also be available via livestream from the National Archives YouTube Channel.

Learn more and find the full program of events on the FOIA Ombudsman blog.

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Make Access Happen

The National Archives and Records Administration has been able to accomplish some incredible digitization and outreach work over the years due in part to contributions and support by anonymous donors and the National Archives Foundation. Two examples of this are the World War I Wartime Films project, and the Ratified Indian Treaties vault digitization project.

Wartime Films: World War I
The digitization of WWI-era material, much of it never-before-seen by the public, was made possible through the generosity of an anonymous donor. This digitization effort included over 100,000 photographs and several hundred reels of film originally shot by the US Signal Corps on behalf of various armed forces units in the 1914–1920 timeframe. All material digitized is now available online in electronic format the National Archives Catalog.

Women's machine gun squad police reserves, New York City

Women’s machine gun squad police reserves, New York City. National Archives Identifier 31474833

To better engage and connect our audiences to this extensive collection of World War I resources, NARA developed the Remembering WWI mobile app. This app provides users with a way to interact with the content and was designed for a target user group of teachers, museum professionals, and digital humanities scholars. We wanted to reach teachers in hopes that the app could enhance lessons on WWI in the classroom, museums to reuse NARA’s WWI materials to enrich the narrative around their own local WWI collections and exhibits, and humanities scholars so they can utilize and reuse the metadata that were generated from this content.

We were recently informed by James Theres (Filmmaker, Producer, and Director) that he helped to produce new documentary called “The Hello Girls” which reuses much of our still images and silent films for his documentary.

NARA was fortunate to lead this national collaborative effort with participation from the Library of Congress and National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution – National Museum of American History, the WWI Centennial Commission, the American Association of State and Local History, and the National WWI Museum and Memorial. This collaboration will ensure our audiences are connected to an extensive collection of resources to further provide an enriched experience with the app.

Vault Digitization: Ratified Indian Treaties
Some NARA holdings are so historically significant and valuable that they are separated from our normal holdings and stored in vaults to increase security and limit physical access. Vault materials at our Washington DC location are among the most sensitive records in NARA’s collection: these records are not served to the public. Many of these records have not been digitized and are therefore effectively closed to the public.

With support from an anonymous donor and the National Archives Foundation, NARA is embarking on an effort to digitize the set of Ratified Indian Treaties from our vault holdings (377 treaties in all). NARA will perform much needed conservation work on these materials and digitize the entire contents of the file for each treaty. This will include scanning the Treaties themselves along with accompanying papers: the Presidential Proclamations, and the Resolutions of Ratification by Senate. We will finally be able to provide public access electronically to these materials on our National Archives Catalog. Having this content available publically further compliments NARA’s existing education efforts around the treaties and other Native American records.

Sample image from the Ratified Indian Treaty 133: Arikara (Ricara) - Arikara Village, July 18, 1825

Sample image from the Ratified Indian Treaty 133: Arikara (Ricara) – Arikara Village, July 18, 1825. National Archives Identifier 57698865

Sample image from the Ratified Indian Treaty 360: Sioux (Sisseton [Sissiton], Wahpeton [Warpeton]) - Washington, DC, 1867.

Sample image from the Ratified Indian Treaty 360: Sioux (Sisseton [Sissiton], Wahpeton [Warpeton]) – Washington, DC, 1867. National Archives Identifier 58234673

We are also working closely with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in support of their Nation to Nation exhibit. Starting in 2014 and rotating every 6 months, NMAI is displaying a new treaty to be exhibited to the public. Most recently, the Treaty of 1868 with the Navajo was installed on February 20th and will be on display at NMAI until May. It will then be on loan to the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock Arizona in time to commemorate the 150th anniversary of its signing.

Sample Image from the Treaty between the United States Government and the Navajo Indians Signed at Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory on June 1, 1868

Sample Image from the Treaty between the United States Government and the Navajo Indians Signed at Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory on June 1, 1868. National Archives Identifier 6173067

Our efforts in digitization are an important piece in achieving our strategic goal to Make Access Happen. Through these generous gifts, we are able to expand our digitization and online access efforts to make these public domain records more accessible for everyone to use, from teachers and local community groups, to museums and filmmakers.

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NHPRC and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Launch Digital Publishing Initiative

On February 14, we made a great match. Together with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and our own National Historical Publications and Records Commission, we announced the eight planning-grant recipients for our joint Digital Edition Publishing Cooperatives Program. These eight cooperatives will test out new ways of making historical records more readily accessible to scholars, students, and the American people.

Our business since 1934 has been not only to preserve records but to provide public access to them. Rather than sitting in boxes (or up in the cloud), records are most valuable when they are used.

That’s the whole point of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission: to find the best ways to make historical records public, to enable people to easily find, understand, and use the primary sources to tell the American story. Through grants by National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the National Archives has for decades played an essential role in building the nation’s historical infrastructure, funding hundreds of archival projects, microfilm editions, and some of the nation’s most important documentary editions in print and online.

Perhaps the best example is our long-time support of six major Founding Fathers projects, first through bound print editions available at libraries but now freely available via Founders Online.

Founders Online

Founders Online

Other projects like the Freedmen and Southern Society Project and the papers of Thomas A. Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr are also exploring new ways of doing time-honored work.

Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project

Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project

This new NHPRC-Mellon partnership will help more documentary editing projects navigate the ongoing transformation from print to digital publication. Individual scholarly editions continue to find it difficult to build and maintain their own digital infrastructure for creating and disseminating their work, and most producers of digital scholarly editions lack access to predictable, affordable, and sustainable publication channels. That’s why, in fall 2016, NHPRC staff convened a working group on “Building a Sustainable Digital Edition Ecosystem” for the Mellon-funded Scholarly Communications Institute, held each year at Duke University. The TriangleSCI working group included historians, documentary editors, archivists, digital humanists, programmers, and university press / library publishers. Each brought new insights for building a sustainable future for the digital edition.

Scholarly Communication Institute

Scholarly Communication Institute

The NHPRC-Mellon Digital Edition Publishing Cooperatives Program, which we first announced in 2017, was a direct outgrowth of their deliberations. The initiative is notable for several reasons. First and foremost, it “does not seek to create or impose a specific framework or platform. Rather, it proposes a process for project teams to build—from the ground up rather than from the top down—a cooperative infrastructure for publication based on their own needs and capacities.” Further, the initiative seeks ways to “exploit the synergies among editions” that “enable them to interact.”

True to the vision of the TriangleSCI working group, the “infrastructure” includes more than just “technological systems (such as digital repositories or discovery tools).” It also includes human infrastructures–“shared standards, semantics, practices, and policies”–that can only be arrived at through discussion and compromise.

Recognizing that “modern digital scholarly editing practice does not take place in isolation,” the initiative addresses issues of longstanding concern here at NARA and in archives across the nation. How can digital editions take advantage of shared information resources–such as the Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) Research Tool, which is addressing a long-standing research challenge: discovering, locating, and using distributed historical records? A key premise of the initiative is that “a strong network of projects working cooperatively can help overcome the limits of single projects.”

As Chair of the Commission, I am proud to see NHPRC taking a leading role in catalyzing what is sure to be a far-reaching, and much-needed, experiment in how to build a sustainable publication infrastructure for ongoing and future scholarly historical editions. These Cooperatives are the R&D for new ways of thinking about our work to preserve and to publish. We have a great partner in the Mellon Foundation, and we have eight projects to see how we together can revolutionize the ways we build and sustain new digital editions of historical records.

Learn more and see descriptions of the eight grant winners here.

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The Emancipation Proclamation

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

Banner with photo of Abraham Lincoln with handwriting introducing Proclamation

Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the United States, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy (the Southern secessionist states) that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union (United States) military victory.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it captured the hearts and imagination of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.

The original of the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, is held in the National Archives in Washington, DC. With the text covering five pages the document was originally tied with narrow red and blue ribbons, which were attached to the signature page by a wafered impression of the seal of the United States. Most of the ribbon remains; parts of the seal are still decipherable, but other parts have worn off. For conservation reasons, it can only be displayed for a short amount of time each year.

In celebration of African American History Month, the original Emancipation Proclamation from 1863 will be on a rare special display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC from February 17 to February 19, 2018 from 10:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. each day. Admission is free and open to the public. Learn more about this important document, and view and download high-resolution images of the Emancipation Proclamation in the National Archives Catalog.

 

 

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National Archives Does Not Tolerate Harassment

An article recently appeared in the media about allegations of serious sexual harassment by former Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein. Weinstein served as the 9th Archivist of the United States from 2005 to 2008.

Shortly after becoming the 10th Archivist of the United States in 2009, I learned of the allegations against Weinstein, and I was deeply disturbed by them. Everyone deserves to work in an environment that is courteous, respectful, and free from harassing behaviors. That my predecessor could have used this office to mistreat members of the National Archives family leaves me angry, and shaped much of the agency’s ensuing approach to harassment.

Here is a short summary of what happened: In January 2008, National Archives officials received a complaint of misconduct against Weinstein from an employee and promptly reported the allegation to the White House Office of Presidential Personnel (because Weinstein was a presidential appointee), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Government Ethics, the Department of Justice, and our Office of Inspector General. The OIG and the FBI then conducted an investigation. Weinstein resigned in December 2008, citing health concerns. He passed away in 2015.

National Archives officials first received access to many of the investigative files last summer, when they were released by the National Archives OIG and the Department of Justice in response to a first-person Privacy Act/Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. These files indicate that Weinstein harassed several other women in addition to the employee who made the complaint. The matter ended with Weinstein’s resignation, and no criminal charges were filed. At the time, this issue was considered a sensitive law enforcement matter, and very few National Archives officials were informed of the investigation or its findings.

I have asked the OIG and the FBI to issue a public version of their reports, so the information can be available to everyone.

In 2010, I issued the National Archives’ first anti-harassment policy. In 2013, with the guidance of the agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity Director we updated and strengthened it – see NARA 396, Anti-Harassment Policy. That year we made annual anti-harassment training mandatory for all managers and supervisors. We made training available for all employees in 2014, and we recently made that training mandatory for all employees, contractors, and volunteers. We also created an Ad-Hoc Committee on Harassment to address allegations of harassment, sexual or otherwise. Since its inception in August 2013, all cases of alleged harassment have been brought before the Committee and addressed.

Freedom from harassment is an essential component of creating and sustaining an inclusive, empowering workplace culture that lets all employees contribute to the agency’s mission. We will not tolerate harassment of any kind.

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Join us for Citizen Archivist Week of Service!

In the spirit of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service, join us this week, January 15—19, 2018, for the Citizen Archivist Week of Service. Our goal is to tag or transcribe 2,018 pages in the National Archives Catalog during this week-long challenge. Can you help us meet this goal?

Citizen Archivist Week of Service: January 15-19, 2018. Volunteer to help us Unlock History!

Get started by visiting the Citizen Archivist Dashboard today through January 19. During this week, we’ll have a special expanded missions section and many featured records waiting to be tagged and transcribed. You can transcribe records related to Mediterranean Passports, which were certificates issued by the Secretary of State in an attempt to ensure safe passage of American vessels in areas threatened by Barbary pirates; slave manifests from the Port of New York; marriage licenses from the Office of Indian Affairs White Earth Agency; records from a wide range of civil rights issue in United States history, and much more! What will you learn and discover as you begin to transcribe?

For our new volunteers, you’ll also find instructions on how to create an account and get started.

Help us unlock history by tagging and transcribing primary source documents in the National Archives Catalog. As you add tags or transcriptions to these records, those words are added to our Catalog—improving search results, and making our records more discoverable online. The added benefit is that we’re unlocking the sometimes difficult to read text for all to understand. We like to say that as we tag and transcribe, we are unlocking history.

Visit our Resources page to learn How to Tag and Transcribe Records, learn What Makes A Good Tag, and review Transcription Tips.

 Encourage Service Week in your classroom!

Are you an educator? A great way to get students involved is by playing the tagging game. It’ a head-to-head or team-versus-team challenge to list as many keywords (Tags) that describe or identify items in an image. After one minute of writing keywords, teams compare their lists and scores are awarded. Before moving on to the next image, the game host adds all the keywords as tags into the Catalog description. You can find more information and resources for both tagging and transcription on our dashboard.

Stay in touch!

Send us a tweet @USNatArchives using the hashtag #CitizenArchivistServiceWeek to let us know what you’re working on and what you find in the records.

Follow us throughout the week to keep up with our progress. We’ll post updates on the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, and on social media.

We look forward to your contributions during our Week of Service—and always! Together with our virtual volunteers, we can help unlock history and make the records of the National Archives more discoverable online.

New to Citizen Archivist? Register and Get Started

 

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Archival Gift-Giving

Tis the season to give holiday gifts. Here in the Office of the Archivist, we are in the business of giving gifts all year round. One of the little-known things that we do is provide facsimile gifts for the President of the United States. My staff receive requests from the State Department Protocol Office for gifts for Heads of State. The Protocol Office will explain who the gift is for and what they are looking for. Then we will reach out across the agency to find documents or photographs appropriate for the recipient.  My staff will gather the ideas from across NARA and present them to the Protocol team. When the White House decides what they would like to give, we create lovely archival facsimiles that will be presented to the head of state.

Here are just a few example of gifts we have prepared:

For a recent visit with the Prime Minister of Libya, the White House requested architectural plans for the White House. The Prime Minister studied architecture.

Interior Cross Sections of the West Wing on an East to West Axis and North to South Axis, White House

Interior Cross Sections of the West Wing on an East to West Axis and North to South Axis, White House January 1, 1905. Records of the National Park Service, National Archives and Records Administration

In 2011, President Obama visited Queen Elizabeth II for his first state visit at Buckingham Palace. We created a series of photographs and documents for Obama to present Queen Elizabeth II from the June 1939 visit to the United States of her parents, King George VI and his consort Elizabeth, known more recently as the Queen Mother. In 2016, President Barack Obama gave Queen Elizabeth II a compilation of photos of the Queen with all the Presidents she had worked with.

Photograph of Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth and President Truman

Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth and President Truman depart from Washington National Airport. October 31, 1951. (A facsimile page that was given to the Queen.)

In 2014, for Angela Merkel’s birthday and after the World cup win for Germany, we suggested a football patent for her gift:

Football patent, June 16, 1903.

Football patent, June 16, 1903. Patent # 731,165. Record Group 241,
Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, National Archives and Records Administration

In addition to doing facsimiles gifts for the President, we often give facsimiles out to special visitors to the National Archives.

In 2015, Prince Charles visited the National Archives and the Archivist gave him two facsimile gifts.

Photograph of David Ferriero and Prince Charles

Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero presents gifts to Prince Charles during a visit to the U.S. National Archives in 2015.

One was a patent application for a polo stick by Lord Louis Mountbatten:

And the other was a telegram from U.S. Embassy in London to United States Secretary of State, October 3, 1957. The telegram says:

“Palace has requested embassy assistance obtain operating and maintenance instruction for engine and midget car reftels…Engine is quarter midget model No. AU7R, Specification No. A178182 Manufactured by Continental Motors Corp, 620 Ford Buildings, Detroit.  Royal Mews mechanics had engine running this morning but as they have no data about engine they uncertain, for example, whether 100 octane or other gasoline required.  Palace “Anxious get car ready before Prince Charles returns from school…”

Telegram from U.S. Embassy in London to the Secretary of State, October 3, 1957

Telegram from U.S. Embassy in London to the Secretary of State, October 3, 1957.
File 741.11/10-357; Central Decimal Files, 1955-59. General Records of the Department of State
Record Group 59, National Archives and Records Administration

 

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Holiday Humor in World War II

Personnel of USS Lexington celebrate Christmas with decorations and a helmeted Santa Claus

Personnel of USS LEXINGTON celebrate Christmas with make-shift decorations and a firefighting, helmeted Santa Claus., National Archives Identifier 520912

Someone in the Office of War Information (OWI) News Bureau was certainly having a jolly old time on Christmas Eve 1942, when they wrote this memorandum concerning rumors flying around (by way of a reindeer-led sled) about a “man in whiskers who … will come down many chimneys bringing gifts to hundreds of American homes.”

Memorandum, December 24, 1942, file Santa Claus, Correspondence of the Chief, News Bureau, Entry NC-148-175, National Archives Identifier 895707, RG 208: Records of the Office of War Information, National Archives. 

This tongue-in-cheek report from the OWI News Bureau, which administered information programs to promote the U.S. Government’s war policies and activities, was composed by staff to poke fun at their own bureaucracy. However, even the report’s light-hearted analysis of the “facts” about Santa Claus reveals serious concerns the U.S. dealt with during World War II, including morale, wartime shortages, and the preservation of the Allied alliance.

This featured document is currently on display at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

Featured Document at the National Archives

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Pursuing Civic Literacy

As the nation’s record keeper, the National Archives is responsible for making the records of the U.S. Government available to the public. These records—some famous but others quite ordinary—tell the nation’s story, document the actions of government officials over the years, and confirm the rights guaranteed to individuals. They are records that deserve preservation not simply for reference purposes but for use by all interested Americans to participate in the civic process. In short, they form a vital documentary bedrock of our democracy.

National Youth Administration (NYA) Photographs. National Archives Identifier 7350937

An informed citizenry is at the heart of what we do—rooted in the belief that citizens have the right to see, examine, and learn from the records that ensure their rights, hold their government accountable, and tell the story of the nation. However, without a fundamental level of civic literacy, the records that we preserve and make accessible will not be understood or used effectively by the citizens we serve.

I recently read some disheartening statistics about the state of civic literacy in the United States, strengthening my resolve to improve understanding of how the government works and citizen responsibility. According to the data from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and Pew Research Center:

  • Nearly 2/3 of Americans cannot name all three branches of government. (Yet three in four people can name all Three Stooges.)
  • Only 29% of eligible Americans participated in the 2016 primary elections.
  • Less than half of the public can name a single Supreme Court Justice. And only 15% can correctly name John Roberts as Chief Justice. (Yet 2/3 of Americans know at least one of the American Idol judges.)
  • Nearly a quarter of young Americans think that a democratic form of government is very bad
  • Intentionally fabricated news stories involving the 2016 presidential candidates were shared 38 million times on social media.
  • Americans distrust the government at record levels and they also distrust their fellow citizens to participate in governance.
  • College bound young people (about half the youth population) are much more civically involved than their non-college bound peers. Rates of voting and volunteering are at least twice as high for those who attend college.
  • Students who are white get more high quality civic-learning opportunities
  • Nationwide, more than 1/3 of today’s high school seniors lack even basic civics knowledge and skills.
  • More than 1/4 of Americans do not know who America fought in the Revolutionary War
  • 39% incorrectly stated that the Constitution gives the president the power to declare war.

Civics education is an important element of the work we do each day at the National Archives. In our efforts to increase levels of civic literacy, the National Archives continues to expand our education, communications, and public programs. Here are just a few examples of the work we are doing across the country:

Public Programming
The National Archives host the Nation’s most prominent speakers, scholars, educators, government officials, members and former members of Congress, Presidents, First Ladies, and Supreme Court Justices for informative and educational events and programs at locations across the country.

Professional Development for Educators
Educators can participate in both on-site and online based activities; from two-week long summer institutes to all-day workshops on using primary sources in the classroom. Our Primarily Teaching Summer Institute introduces educators to researching and using historical documents in the classroom. DocsTeach is the online tool for teaching with documents, featuring almost 10,000 facsimiles of primary sources and nearly 700 lesson plans and activities for use in classrooms.

Student and Family Programs
Events across the country include: Family festivals on Presidents Day; Teen Thursdays in New York in collaboration with the NYC Department of Education; Mighty Writers: Early Civil War Rights literacy teen summer program in Philadelphia; Sleepover activities twice a year at the National Archives building in Washington, DC; local and regional National History Day competitions; extensive partnerships with local scouting organizations, especially in the heartland of Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas; partnerships with community centers supporting underserved populations in Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia, New York City, and Los Angeles—all participate in civic initiatives like the National Student Mock Election, nation-wide essay contests on topics of political courage, integrity, and presidential leadership.

Center for Legislative Archives
The Center for Legislative Archives preserves and makes available to researchers the historical records of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Through its public outreach programs, the Center uses these historical records to promote a better understanding of Congress and the history of American representative government. The Center hosts professional development workshops for K-12 civics and history educators on how to make the Constitution, Bill of Rights, the legislative process, and topics in Congressional history accessible to students. Congress Creates the Bill of Rights eBook, mobile app, and online resources tells the remarkable story of the relationship between the Bill of Rights and the Constitution

Presidential Libraries

  • George H.W. Bush Library: Award winning distance learning programs, many of which have featured First Lady Barbara Bush and her efforts to promote literacy. Initially broadcast throughout the state of Texas, it is now national and international in scope.
  • Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum: Boy Scouts of America partnership program include the Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge and the Eisenhower Leadership Patch. Additional programs include Story Time for Pre-Schoolers and their accompanying adults; Constitution-In-Action Learning Lab, a two-hour simulation of the role of researchers and archivists.
  • John F. Kennedy Library: The Kennedy Library serves as the state coordinator for the National Student/Parent Mock Election for Massachusetts
  • White House Decision Centers. Students spend days preparing for and participating in a dramatic role playing exercise related to real historical events using facsimiles of the records used by the original decision makers. The Harry S. Truman Library includes decision making about ending the war against Japan, desegregating the Armed Forces, or the decision to defend South Korea. Every Presidential Library now has a similar opportunity specific to that presidency which demonstrates how decisions are made using real life example and real life documentation. The Reagan Library’s Situation Room Experience is the newest and most elaborate to date focused on the assassination attempt on the President in a situation room reassembled from the Bush 43 White House.

We will continue to expand and support civic literacy by engaging in national conversations, and pursuing collaborative opportunities with civics education projects and institutions such as iCivics, America Achieves, American Enterprise Institute, Carnegie Corporation, and the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts. By increasing understanding of how government works and the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen, we can ensure the continued and increased relevance of truly democratic access to our holdings.

Posted in Leadership, NARA Records, Open Government, Participation | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments