I am pleased to announce a new pilot project from the Office of Innovation at the National Archives called the “History Hub.” This new platform may be thought of as an external collaboration network, a place where subject matter experts from the National Archives can engage with researchers and the public, to share information, work more easily together, and find people based on their experience and interests. The platform offers discussion boards, blogs, profiles, and other interactive tools for communication and collaboration.
We aim to use the History Hub to explore new ways of connecting with and serving customers interested in historical topics relating to our holdings. This project helps us to achieve NARA’s strategic goal to Connect with Customers, in particular, to expand public participation and our use of crowdsourcing tools. The project is also part of NARA’s Open Government Plan and supports the aim of achieving government transparency, as well as citizen participation and collaboration with the federal government. The History Hub provides us a platform for eventually working with other cultural organizations—such as the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress—to offer the public a one-stop shop for crowdsourcing information.
The History Hub is a limited six-month pilot project so that we can test the platform for its use and usefulness as a crowdsourcing platform. We will use the pilot period to benchmark level of effort on the part of NARA staff and to better understand public engagement metrics. We are developing a robust set of evaluation criteria to evaluate the pilot and ensure good use of NARA’s resources.
The History Hub project will include participation from staff subject matter experts who have both an interest and expertise in these topics. For the pilot, we are working on a narrow set of topics that have been identified as good test cases for this platform. For example, we know that the popularity and complexity of Native American research makes it a good candidate for discussion on this platform and NARA has an opportunity to collaborate with other federal resources, such as the Smithsonian, to better serve researchers.
The idea for this project has been under discussion for several years, and I am excited about the potential for this pilot project, as it is a great opportunity to engage National Archives staff experts, the public, as well as colleagues at other institutions to further NARA’s mission and strategic goals.
But we really don’t know how the History Hub will actually be used. We just know that all of our great plans for it will surely miss some of the new ways people will use the tool. That’s the nature of innovative projects, we need to launch and then learn from them.
Do you have research questions you’ve always wanted answered? Do you want advice on how to get started with genealogical research? Give it a try and ask a question at historyhub.archives.gov.