Friday, May 13, 2011

NGS – Day 1 – David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States

The opening ceremonies started at 8:00 am today with a performance by the Charleston Police Department’s Pipes and Drums group.

Photo by Ginger Smith, NGS Conference Opening Ceremony, Charleston, South Carolina, 11 May 2011.

Then the National Anthem was sung by a young lady while the Knights held the flags on stage (dressed in full period garb).  Ann Hilke, NGS President and resident of Raleigh, NC, introduced the first keynote speaker, David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States.

David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States; Photo from the website.

I knew that David Ferriero had previously worked at Duke because I heard him speak there last year; however I did not know that he still lived in North Carolina and his wife worked for UNCTV. Another thing I did not know that was quite shocking was that NARA was considered to be “the worse places to work in the Federal Government.” Of course, he’s been working hard to change that. A couple of things he mentioned that are in the works are the nine NARA blogs – he said the blogs don’t get many comments – and like someone in Twitter mentioned today, this just goes to show that we need to comment more and that NARA is trying to build more of a “user experience.”

He also highlighted that NARA is working to build up their customer help support service. It is one thing to have the records and to make them available to the public. However, this is moot if the users cannot do anything with the records if they do not know how.  I am personally looking forward to testing out their new customer support service because I often find myself running into roadblocks on their website.

Lastly, he mentioned that the 1940 census will be released April 2nd, 2012 on the NARA website.  A member of the audience asked if it will be indexed and David replied “sort of.” I guess we will have to wait and see. They have a cool little countdown widget and information on how to use the information provided on the 1940 census in your research on their website. Check it out!

One thing I wondered about was something he said early on: that NARA’s purpose was to make the records available free to the public. However, if this is the case, then why do subscription places such as Footnote charge a fee for access to digitalized versions of these records such as the Civil War records? And then I started wondering what the difference was between these records and the ones that FamilySearch has just released for free? How will you know if you need to search and pay for the “for fee” records? Ok…I will save that for another post.


  1. I'm glad you posted about the NARA blogs...I enjoy reading them, but never make comments. I guess I should start!

  2. I think I heard him say that after five years (of for-pay use by the partner company - Ancestry, Footnote, etc.) NARA gets to make the records accessible for free.

  3. @Heather, I didn't even know they had blogs...I'm going to write up another post with a list of their blogs and make an effort to start leaving comments!

  4. @Greta, thank you for the clarification, that makes better sense. I hope that's true!

  5. I love the NARAtions blog. I'll make more of an effort to make comments!

    Thanks for the info about the 1940 census.