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.
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.
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.
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.