Numbers never tell the whole story, but they do provide insights that are useful for understanding the scope and impact of our work. Here are some of the numbers we have tracked that indicate how we have grown to make access happen, connect with customers, and maximize our value to the nation from 2010 to 2022.
When I first came to NARA, I shared with staff the great Wayne Gretsky quote, “skate to where the puck is going to be.” I asked, “Where are the people going to be online?” In 2010, it was social media. People who may never come to our buildings or even our website, could come across our records on Facebook, Twitter or a blog. And so on April 7, 2010, I launched this blog and encouraged NARA staff to give social media a try. Since then, I have published 416 posts over the years, and they have had an average of over 50 thousand views per year. We launched three more social media projects in 2010 and NARA’s work in social media blossomed from there. By 2017, we had 165 social media accounts on 16 platforms receiving millions of views, and today social media has become a routine part of NARA staff duties and operations.
One of the most popular and unusual social media accounts we have had is on the GIPHY website. The staff’s combination of technical knowledge and their love of the archival records made this project into a hit. We launched in 2016 and since then, our records have received a total of more than four billion views from around the world.
The people also go to Wikipedia. In 2011 I hired NARA’s first Wikipedian-in-Residence who worked with the local Wikipedian community to ensure that our records were available on their website. The results were phenomenal. NARA records received 1,274,493,206 views on Wikipedia in 2013, and the numbers kept climbing; by 2021, we received 2,110,071,649 views. Compare this to our archives.gov site, which received 29,351,833 views in 2013 and grew to 231,551,478 views in 2021. Impressive numbers for our website, but nothing like the turbo power of Wikipedia for getting views. NARA now provides data and digital copies of our records to numerous Wikimedia sites, including Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata.
The well from which we draw our metadata and digital objects for our digital public access projects is the National Archives Catalog. The Catalog provides descriptions for over 95% of our holdings. So you do not need to come to our buildings to learn about the records we hold, you can see descriptions of our holdings online. In 2010, the National Archives Catalog had 5,195,538 descriptions. In 2021 the Catalog provided 27,789,076 descriptions.
We know that providing digital copies of our records democratizes access to our records. We have dramatically increased the digital copies in our Catalog. In 2010, the Catalog had 157,020 digital objects and now provides 168,793,975 digital objects.
The 10 Most Viewed Records in the Catalog in 2021:
- Engrossed Declaration of Independence (NAID 1419123)
- Constitution of the United States (NAID 1667751)
- Population Schedules for the 1910 Census, 1910 – 1910 (NAID 2353588)
- Bill of Rights (NAID 1408042)
- The Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory (NAID 300321)
- Index to the Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory (NAID 300320)
- Emancipation Proclamation (NAID 299998)
- Population Schedules for the 1940 Census (NAID 16660414)
- Corporation of the City of Washington, D.C. 1802-6/1/1871 (NAID 10488163)
- Engrossed Dockets, 1791 – 1995 (NAID 1524561)
The result of our digitization work has been a dramatic increase in page views as well.
In the last quarter of 2015, I opened the Innovation Hub at our flagship location in Washington, D.C. This is a place intended to support staff to work collaboratively with the public. We have had 6,817 visitors to the event space and 3,375 visitors to the scanning room, for a total of 10,192 visitors in-person since we opened. We have uploaded 598,680 pages to the Catalog that were scanned by the public in the Innovation Hub. Some files also have a PDF compilation, bringing the total number of digital objects to 613,117 in the Catalog.
We launched the digital History Hub platform in 2016. The goal of this website has been to provide digital reference to the public and to crowdsource responses from NARA staff and the public. The History Hub started its first year with 1,713 registered users in FY16 and grew to 11,391 users by FY21. The Hub platform grew from 373 questions and answers in FY16 to 3,692 questions and answers in FY21. A comment from one of our users: History Hub is amazing and I am so grateful for this site and for the people like you who help people like me find answers to the questions we have. The platform became a critical reference tool during the pandemic, when staff and the public could not go into our buildings.
We have also reached out to other websites to share our records. NARA has supported the Digital Public Library of America since its inception in 2011. We co-hosted their 2015 annual conference along with the Smithsonian and Library of Congress. Today NARA is the largest contributor to DPLA’s online platform.
Substantial numbers of NARA’s records are now available across 37 platforms beyond our archives.gov websites. One is of particular note: our work with the DigiTreaties.org, which won the 2021 Society of American Archivists’ C.F.W. Coker Award for Description and provides access to 374 of the Ratified Indian Treaties from NARA’s holdings.
One of our largest access projects to date is the development and launch of the 1950 Census website. NARA staff from across the Agency have been working since 2012 to prepare for the April 1, 2022 launch of the 1950 Census website.
The site includes: 6.57 million population schedules, 33,360 Native American Reservation Schedules, and 9,634 maps. This is approximately twice the size of the 1940 Census. We know that the number of views on April 1 is going to be enormous and we are scaling our technology to handle the many millions of visits we expect to receive.
These numbers reflect only a few highlights of the work that has been accomplished since 2010. NARA staff around the country are working on many more projects that support our mission to provide public access to the permanent records of the federal government. All of our efforts are in alignment with our values to collaborate, innovate, and learn.
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