That’s Archivist with a capital A, as in the person who heads up the National Archives and Records Administration. The latest person to hold that position is David S. Ferriero, who became AOTUS (Archivist of the United States) in November 2009. Mr. Ferriero used to be the director of the New York Public Libraries, and it looks like he has brought some of that public-outreach sensibility to his new role.
He’s blogging, for one thing. (Imagine his predecessors doing that.) AOTUS: Collector in Chief debuted last week with the tagline “The Archivist’s Take on Transparency, Collaboration, and Participation at the National Archives.”
In his first post, Mr. Ferriero lays out (a little drily, it must be said) his aim to have NARA “reclaim its records management role.” He emphasizes that “we understand that electronic records are now a fundamental part of our documentary record.” And, he says, “I expect the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration to change the way we do things, the way we think about things, and the way we deliver services to the public.”
In his second post, “Cultivating Citizen Archivists,” posted yesterday, Mr. Ferriero seems to be having a little more fun. He begins by talking about a new online NASA project, Be a Martian:
At first glance, this website is a highly sophisticated public education tool that creates an online experience to connect the public with NASA’s mission. On closer inspection, this is also an important crowdsourcing project. The public is invited to participate as “citizen scientists” by aligning Mars imagery and counting craters. The Martian Map room is an intriguing interface where the public is invited to actually add value to the vast amount of data from several Mars missions. Do you see where I’m going with this?
That’s right—AOTUS wants you, citizen archivist!
At the National Archives and Records Administration, we have no shortage of paper records to digitize or transcribe. The vast quantity and characteristics of our records create many challenges for us to make these accessible online. However, I believe we need to rethink our traditional approach (professional archivists must do everything) to providing access, in favor of a new approach that utilizes the collaborative power of the internet.
Already Mr. Ferriero has started a conversation. His posts caught the attention of Kate Theimer, an archivist who blogs at ArchivesNext. She wrote a post in response about “citizen archivist” and its limits. That set off so much discussion on her site that she did another post arguing we need a better term.
“I appreciate what he’s trying to do, and the kind of conversation he’s trying to generate with the public,” Ms. Theimer wrote of Mr. Ferriero’s call for citizen archivists to get involved. “Let’s help him out a bit by giving him a better way of making his pitch.”
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