CIL 2010: Conversations with the Archivist of the United States

Speakers: “Collector in Chief” David Ferriero interviewed by Paul Holdengräber

Many people don’t know what the archivist does. They often think that the National Archives are a part of the Library of Congress. In fact, the agency is separate.

Ferriero is the highest ranking librarian in the administration. It’s usually a historian or someone with connections to the administration. He was surprised to get the appointment, and had been expecting to head the IMLS instead.

He is working to create a community around the records and how they are being used. His blog talks about creating citizen archivists. In addition, he is working to declassify 100 million documents a year. There is an enormous backlog of these documents going back to WWII. Each record must be reviewed by the agency who initially classified them, and there are 2400 classification guides that are supposed to be reviewed every five years, but around 50% of them have not.

You can’t have an open government if you don’t have good records. When records are created, they need to be ready to migrate formats as needed. There will be a meeting between the chief information officers and the record managers to talk about how to tackle this problem. These two groups have historically not communicated very well.

He’s also working to open up the archives to groups that we don’t often think of being archive users. There will be programs for grade school groups, and more than just tours.

Large digitization projects with commercial entities lock up content for periods of time, including national archives. He recognizes the value that commercial entities bring to the content, but he’s concerned about the access limitations. This may be a factor in what is decided when the contract with Ancestry.com is up.

“It’s nice having a boss down the street, but not, you know, in my face.” (on having not yet met President Obama)

Ferriero thinks we need to save smarter and preserve more digital content.

nasig part two

Knowing that it was my only opportunity to do so, I slept in again on Thursday. At some time close to noon, Bonnie and I made our way down to Hell’s Kitchen for lunch. I had drank a bit too much the night before, so I didn’t have my normal appetite. However, the mahnomin porridge was excellent and just what I needed. They also made an Americano good enough to rival Starbucks. After brunch, we headed over to the conference hotel and picked up our registration packets. I had a few minutes to kill before it was time to meet for the NASIG skits rehearsal. (Yes, there was much teasing from my friends about me being a thespian.) This year was the 20th NASIG conference, so there was a bit more hoopla in the schedule of events, the skits being part of the anniversary part/dinner on Friday evening.

The opening session of the conference was much the same as previous ones with various members of the conference and program planning committees speaking about how great it was to be at NASIG again. The local historian and pictures segment was interesting if only for the flavor of the bias the historian had. He spent most of the time showing pictures of buildings in Minneapolis and Saint Paul that no longer existed along side of pictures of dismal office buildings and freeways that have replaced the old buildings. I understand his dismay over the period of time when old buildings were demolished and their history and unique architectural design unvalued, but really, we got the message and there was no need to continue to harp on it.

The Awards and Recognition Committee decided to create a new award to be given periodically to members who have significantly contributed to the organization. The first award winner is Tina Feick, who later showed her thespian skills in the NASIG skit about dorm life. Given the years she has been a part of the organization, the campus conference experience must have been quite familiar to her, and that came through in her performance on Friday evening.

nasig day 1 & 2

This is my first attempt at a conference blog, but I couldn’t come to NASIG this year with my brand new wi-fi enabled laptop and not blog something while here. I hope to blog again tomorrow, but that will depend on whether or not I manage to get away for an hour or so. It’s a lengthy entry.

This is my first attempt at a conference blog, but I couldn’t come to NASIG this year with my brand new wi-fi enabled laptop and not blog something while here. I hope to blog again tomorrow, but that will depend on whether or not I manage to get away for an hour or so. It’s a lengthy entry.

Continue reading “nasig day 1 & 2”