Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, July 08, 2007

US National Archivist promises access improvements

Allen Weinstein, Progress toward a Goal of Greater Access, Prologue, Summer 2007.  Weinstein is the US National Archivist.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)  Excerpt:

...With [public] records, Americans hold their government officials accountable, guarantee individual rights and entitlements, and preserve the nation's history for future generations. But these documents are of little use or benefit to citizens unless they have access to them.

Those concerned with maximizing timely access to public records government-wide, as we are at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), received encouragement this year as a result of some developments in policy and change of mood in Washington....

In the past year or two, a wide variety of records have been opened, both in response to FOIA and as a result of systematic reviews. They include the files of then-Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito, the post-presidential papers of Dwight Eisenhower, the personal papers of Rose Kennedy, 60 additional hours of Lyndon Johnson's phone conversations, National Security Council files from the Ford administration, domestic policy papers from the Clinton White House, portions of files from independent counsels from the Iran/Contra and Whitewater investigations, and the official and confidential files of J. Edgar Hoover....

NARA has made visible progress on a number of its strategic goals in the past two years—goals of greater access to our holdings:

  • We are moving steadily toward an Electronic Records Archives that will ensure preservation of, and access to, today's electronic records far into the future. ERA's first increment is scheduled to begin in late 2007 or early 2008.
  • We are working closely with the intelligence community and other key agencies to ensure that we can develop a National Declassification Initiative to transform the way documents are reviewed and released.
  • We are working with the private sector to digitize key collections and to enable Internet search engines wider and deeper access to our vast databases....

PS:  For more on the third bullet point, see my blog post from January 19, 2007.  The US National Archives made a non-exclusive deal with Footnote, Inc., allowing Footnote to digitize some of the archive's public-domain documents and sell them online.  Footnote will charge $100/year or $1.99/page for access to these public documents until 2012, when access will be free.