The National Archives’ Strategic Plan includes the ambitious initiative to digitize our analog records and make them available for online public access. With over 12 billion pages of records in our holdings, this is no small undertaking. As we work to make more of our holdings available online, it is also important to see how our researchers and customers interact with those records, invite them to contribute their unique knowledge and expertise, and ultimately make the records more searchable and accessible.
This third post in a series for American Archives Month explores our efforts to digitize the holdings of the National Archives, make them accessible online, and engage citizens.
Our recently updated digitization strategy outlines the various approaches we will use to achieve the goal of expanding public access through digitization, including continued collaboration with private and public organizations, citizen archivists, and other federal agencies to digitize records. We are developing clearer processes and improved technologies to support workflow from staff digitization efforts, as well as ensuring that records arriving at NARA are accompanied by standardized metadata, with the goal of making them available online in a shorter period of time. As a result of these efforts, the National Archives digitized and added more than 5 million digital objects to our online catalog in Fiscal Year 2015. Highlights of these newly digitized images include color photographs from the Battle of the Bulge, as well as images from World War I and World War II:
To better facilitate access of records, our online catalog has also recently been upgraded and now features more participatory elements, including new tagging and transcription tools to further engage citizen archivists and help make our holdings more discoverable to researchers. At the end of the fiscal year, citizen archivists had contributed over 91,000 tags and 35,000 transcriptions to the catalog, with the latter growing at over 5% each week.
To introduce these new catalog features, we kicked off Sunshine Week this spring with a transcription challenge for citizen archivists. During that week alone, citizens transcribed more than 2,500 pages of records and added 10,000 new tags to the catalog, making our records more searchable and accessible to everyone.
Our efforts in digitization and citizen engagement are an important piece in achieving the goal of making access happen in the spirit of a more open government. Inviting participation, transparency and collaboration in all aspects of our work helps us provide more democratic access to our holdings for the benefit of all.
See my previous posts in this series on maximizing our value through web and social media and connecting with customers. And stay tuned for my final post in this series reflecting on the opportunities and challenges we see as we continue our efforts to make access happen.