Be Bold: Make Access Happen

Women Working at a Switchboard
Photograph of Women Working at a Bell System Telephone Switchboard. National Archives Identifier 1633445.


The first of our new strategic goals is to “Make Access Happen.”  Increasingly, access means digital, online access. Our first goal has one objective, to make our records available to the public in digital form to ensure that anyone can explore, discover and learn from our records.

Here are a few of the initiatives listed under this goal:

  • First, we want to complete the long journey of describing our holdings in our online catalog. We launched our first agency-wide online catalog in 2003, and now we are within just a few years of being able to say that over 95% of our records are described at the series level. Currently we are at 83% and going strong. Archivists across the agency continue to provide basic archival metadata to the catalog so that people around the world can know what we have.
  • We will also accelerate the processing of analog and digital records to quickly make our records available to the public. Foundational technology for that effort will be the development of a digital processing environment that will allow archival, digitization and description staff to work in an environment that supports and enhances accelerated processing of the records.
  • We want to digitize our records and to make them available online. We know we will not accomplish this next year or even within the timeframe of this strategic plan, but we are planting a stake in the ground. In doing so, we are changing the conversation around digitization.  We are discussing issues including how we will prioritize the work, what we need to do to update our strategies, and how we will pilot new ways, such as working with citizen archivists,  to get this done.

“Make Access Happen” includes within it all of the crucial work that is required for access: everything from appraisal to preservation to processing. All of the vital work that the National Archives does with the records of the federal government supports and enables access.  “Make Access Happen” is a big, bold goal. It sets the foundation for the next two strategic goals.

Stay tuned for goal two: Connect with Customers.  Get the full view of our Strategic Plan.

12 thoughts on “Be Bold: Make Access Happen

  1. First and foremost it does no good to have documents available if they are not accessible.

    Most badly needed is ~one~ **central** place, readily found, where all digital-image collections are listed and linked.

    One. Central. Place. Easily. Found.

  2. I laud the Archivist’s strategic initiative to “Make Access Happen.” The Federation of Genealogical Societies’ strategic initiatives also include a very strong component of making access happen. We are engaged in a multi-year project to crowd-fund the digitization of the War of 1812 pension files. We were asked by NARA to spearhead this project and we have been actively engaged for more than four years. To date, more than 1 million of the 7.2 million images have been scanned and posted online for free use by all. Our progress would be greatly enhanced if the Archivist would agree to provide us with a photograph and a quote in support of this project that we could use on our website, or better, a 30 to 45 second video clip. To date, our requests for such a support piece(s) have gone unanswered by the Archivist’s handlers. In addition, it would be beneficial and appropriate for NARA, through its foundation, to allow us access to donors who are actively interested in and supportive of War of 1812 history and preservation activities. To date, there has been no cooperation. Yes, let’s “make access happen” cooperatively, collaboratively, and professionally by supporting activities already underway in the community.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m young and this fills me with so much hope for the future!

  4. This is a nice concept except at the National Personnel Records Center where the military personnel records contain PII and the release (or making access happen) is a violation of US Code (Privacy Act), service department rugulations, etc.

    The more accurate title would be “Make Access Happen, except where prohibited by law”.

  5. The closing the NARA a site in Center City Philadelphia hinders accessibility to all documents and services. There is little access to the new site that is difficult to reach by public transportation. The research area is smaller since most of the space is taken up with storage.

  6. What good news that we will soon be able to efficiently pull up data on our computers. For novice genealogist such as myself, I am sure you know that I will be able to simply plug in my search item and up will pop the data that I need to fill in the blanks in my family trees.

    Thank you so much for developing this program.

  7. I followed Dick Eastman’s link to your Blog

    Great to see a goal which will really raise the bar. Wish you every success and look forward to hearing the updates as you develop your plan and milestones

  8. I applaud the effort to increase access. As a professional genealogist I would like to recommend increasing access by reducing fees. I recently requested a Civil War Pension file for a client at a cost of $80. I was provided with part of the file but was told that the remaining file would cost an additional $120. Once I told my client they lost interest in pursuing the second half of the file. This is a tragedy as I anticipate that the remainder of the file will open the door to my client’s slave ancestors.

    Please consider reducing fees while you are pursuing your digitization plans.

  9. This element of NARA’s strategic plan is essential in the era we now live in. It recognizes citizen expectations for accessing Government records. A few comments to add:
    1. NARA must continue digitizing existing paper finding aids for our paper collections. This is especially important in high-use collections at A2 and in the Presidential Libraries;
    2. NARA must lead Government efforts to reform electronic records management so future public access is manageable, timely, and effective;
    3. NARA and the Government must invest in technologies to automate records management activities and access (e.g. PII and declassification review) and use pilot project o test them.
    4. NARA needs to expand its own technology infrastructure and update policies so that citizens can find records of interest from their own devices.

  10. Tell me best way to get to seminar to be held on April 30 at 10:00 in Room G 25. I am steepled in age and need to know shortest way possible.
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    Battle of the Atlantic, World War Ii

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