The US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is asking for the public to comment on its draft Plan for Digitizing Archival Materials for Public
Access, 2007-2016. This document outlines theirs strategy for
digitizing and making publicly available the vast historic holdings of the National
Archives. Imagine if anyone could access from their web browser the following gems:
- Telegrams sent by President Lincoln
- Mathew Brady Civil War photographs
- Ship passenger arrival lists and naturalization documents
- Hundreds of thousands of newsreels
- the Nuremberg trial documents
The importance of the public accessibility of these national treasures, of our national memory, can not be overemphasized. The current strategic plan is for 1% of all of the National Archives holdings to be available online, which sounds quite ambitious to me. In the meanwhile, there are a number of public policy questions to be answered:
- As the National Archives seeks partnerships with corporations like Google, universities, and non-profits, what basic rules should govern that relationship to ensure public access and accountability?
- Given the vast holdings of the National Archives, what priority documents, video, audio and visual material should be made available the soonest?
- How should those on the other side of the Digital Divide be best facilitated access to these digital holdings?