Communicating with our customers is key to achieving the mission and goals of the National Archives. In fact, as part of the National Archives Strategic Plan, 2018-2022, NARA established a strategic goal to Connect with Customers along with the specific objective of having one million records enhanced by citizen contributions to the National Archives Catalog.
There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the digital landscape. Connecting and communicating online with you, our customers, is more critical than ever before. One of the ways we work to achieve our goals to connect with customers is through the bi-weekly publication of an email newsletter about the Catalog, primarily geared to researchers and Citizen Archivists. Each newsletter highlights information about the records, data, and descriptions in the Catalog, and how it facilitates access to the records anytime, from any computer. Newsletter issues also feature details about newly available records, tips and strategies on the Catalog’s features and functionality, innovative research projects, and ways to contribute through our Citizen Archivist program.
The Catalog newsletter not only features the records and information contained within the Catalog, but also highlights the incredible work accomplished by staff across the agency who continue to make access happen. The newsletter is not only an important tool for informing you about the Catalog and new information platforms and offerings, but also acknowledging and celebrating the work of NARA staff. In 2020, this included introducing new research tools and search strategies, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs Finding Aid, the Native American Treaties Explorer, and the Presidential Library Explorer, as well as projects organized by NARA staff to help improve access to records, like the Searchable Stock Shots project from the Motion Picture Preservation Lab.
Additional issues of the Catalog newsletter during 2020 celebrated the milestone achievement of 1 million pages of records enhanced by citizen archivist contributions to the National Archives Catalog. Thanks to the continued work of our citizen archivist community, we now have more than 5 million enhancements on over 1.5 million pages of records in the Catalog.
The Catalog newsletter provides an opportunity to share this work with more than 265,000 subscribers. As a result of the content featured within each issue of the newsletter, the number of subscribers to the newsletter grew by more than 100,000 in Fiscal Year 2020.
The National Archives Catalog contains more than 26 million descriptions of archival records and more than 135 million digital objects. Millions of digital objects are added to the Catalog every year; more than 27 million were added in Fiscal Year 2020 alone. With the size of NARA’s publicly available holdings in the Catalog growing each week, facilitating access and discovery to the material in the Catalog is paramount to achieving NARA’s Strategic Goals.
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. These enhancements include transcriptions, tags, and comments that can be searched by users, improving search results and making records easier to find online.
Read more about the Citizen Archivist program, including how to register to start tagging and transcribing records, and explore the ongoing citizen archivist missions and more resources for our virtual volunteers.