Maximizing NARA’s Value to the Nation: Wide Scale Use of NARA’s Data

The National Archives Strategic Plan for FY 2018-2022 contains a goal to “Maximize NARA’s Value to the Nation.” One of the performance measures of this goal is to collaborate with external platforms and organizations to use NARA’s digitized holdings, or data sets, from the Catalog as a primary source. In fulfilling our mission to drive openness, cultivate public participation, and strengthen our nation’s democracy through public access to high-value government records, NARA must facilitate new and innovative uses of our digitized holdings to allow the nation’s records to be widely available beyond the walls of our facilities or in our Catalog and in ways that we ourselves cannot imagine. 

National Archives records available in the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

The platforms and organizations leveraging NARA data provide for the information needs of a broad cross section of American society and citizens worldwide. Many will recognize the platforms for genealogists, one of our more widely known customer segments. Other sites target a broader, general audience, such as the suite of Wikipedia platforms including Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons, the Digital Public Library of America, and the Internet Archive. Since NARA’s holdings are created by federal agencies executing their missions, it should not be surprising that several platforms provide data related to government activities, such as Apollo in Real Time, the National Parks Service National Register of Historic Places, and the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017 Exploration. Platforms such as the Indigenous Digital Archives Treaties Explorer and the International Research Portal for Records Related to Nazi-Era Cultural Property provide data related to the experiences of traditionally marginalized communities. Several platforms focus on digitized visual resources, such as Flickr, Historypin, and PastPin, while others focus on an academic research audience such as the Harvard Digital Library and the John F. Kennedy Assassination Collection. The diversity of audiences using NARA data, including historians, genealogists, veterans, and public advocacy groups, underscores the enduring cultural and historical value of our holdings.

Apollo in Real Time website, featuring photographs from the holdings of the National Archives

Consequently, NARA’s pursuit of this strategic goal has been successful beyond our expectations. The initial performance measure for this strategic goal was 15 external platforms using NARA data by 2025. As of November 2020, we identified 30 platforms, and are poised for continued growth. The following is a list of platforms using NARA’s digitized holdings in new and innovative ways. This list highlights the power and importance of our records, and is a testament to the agency’s commitment to providing deeper public engagement with the nation’s records of enduring value.

1Wikimedia Commons
2Wikidata
3Wikipedia
4Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)
5Historypin
6Ancestry.com
7Fold3
8FamilySearch
9Old Weather
10Apollo in Real Time
11Internet Archive
12Google Arts & Culture
13Holocaust-era Asset Research Portal
14Flickr Commons
15PastPin
16Mary Ferrell Foundation Archive
17The American Soldier
18African American Civil War Soldiers
19JFK Assassination Collection
20iCONECT: JFK Files
21Indigenous Digital Archives
22Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017 Exploration
23U.S. National Archives Public Domain Archive
24Umbra Search
25Digital Commonwealth
26Social Networks in Archival Context (SNAC)
27American Oversight
28Harvard Digital Library – Morgan v. Hennigan
29NPS National Historic Register
30IDA Treaties Explorer

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