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In a press release today, The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announced a “new model for the preservation and accessibility of Presidential records.” The Obama Foundation has announced its commitment to fund the digitization of all of the unclassified Presidential records created during the administration of President Barack Obama and NARA says that, “Instead of constructing a building to house the textual and artifact records, existing NARA facilities will house the original materials.”
In this new model, NARA will administer neither a museum nor a traditional “Presidential Library,” and will instead focus its resources and personnel on preserving and making accessible the Presidential records of the 44th President of the United States in digital format to the greatest extent possible.
…Once the records are digitized, NARA will store and preserve the original paper records, as well as the artifacts, in an existing facility that meets NARA’s high standards for archival storage.
… In addition to the paper records, NARA received more than 250 terabytes of electronic records, including approximately 300 million emails, from the Obama White House. Together, these “born digital” and the digitized materials will represent the largest digital archive of Presidential records.
Gary Price at InfoDocket has the complete text of the NARA announcement.
There’s plenty of analysis out there, so I won’t deign to add my own. But I will point out a couple of things that I found interesting: the SOTU site was nicely built, with easy navigation for each of the sections the President Obama covered in his speech (economy, climate, foreign policy, health care, social progress) and lots of information and statistics that could be easily shareable on social media; I also found it interesting that the full text of the SOTU speech wasn’t posted on witehouse.gov but on Medium, the video was posted to YouTube and I worry about the long-term preservation and access to arguably the most important speech that every president makes during his or her term.
Here’s the video in case you missed the address (start at 5:36:38 with the Justice Ginsburg hug(!))
President Obama’s SOTU Address:
Governor Nikki Haley’s GOP response:
President Barack Obama sits down with Zach Galifianakis for his most memorable interview yet.
Evidently, sharing government information with the public is “wasteful.” While I’m all for spending tax dollars responsibly, and don’t want the federal govt to waste dollars on superfluous and wasteful things (like $3 billion for duplicative engines for the F-35 fighter jet), I would prefer if he didn’t use the printing of the Federal Register as an example of govt waste. As we noted in our earlier post:
Public Printer Bill Boarman, in a Mar. 17, 2011 Senate Appropriations hearing for the Government Printing Office, stated that 70% of the cost and work of publishing the Congressional Record is done in pre-press, and many of the same duties necessary to publish it in print are still necessary to put it out digitally.
While it is true that many more people these days access government information (including the Federal Register) in digital format, there is still a need for print from both a usability and preservation standpoint. Gary Price points out some of the incongruities with the White House’s line of reasoning regarding .gov domain:
- Top-level web domains are one thing but in saying that there are t0o many subsites/microsites is another. What does this mean? Are we talking sub-sites inside a focused site like this mentioned at the beginning of the blog post OR sub-sites on any web domain?
- What exactly is a sub-site? A focused area of a large site, often beginning with the name or a subdirectory or all sites that begin with something other than the top-level domain? Is Chronicling America a sub-site at Chronicling.loc.gov? What about Travel.state.gov or Jobs.Faa.gov?
- The White House should know that sub-sites (no matter the definition) CAN be a useful way to organize a lot of focused information and then have an easy URL to share with others and market the content. Yes, of course, it’s also possible to go overboard but have info organization and info architecture been considered?
- If old sites are to be taken offline have they been archived properly and are URLs going to be redirected to where the material is being archived? What does the White House have to say about the long term preservation of government web sites and making it easy for researchers to access? NARA does conduct web harvests (using Internet Archive technology). Are the harvests large enough? Are they being promoted properly? Learn more about the harvests at: http://www.webharvest.gov (is this top-level domain necessary? (-:
Our point here is not to say that what’s being discussed is 100% wrong but rather if considerations about many issues (several noted above) are in place about how to proceed going forward?
More from the White House blog post:
As the President points out in this video, our government doesn’t need a website dedicated to foresters who play the fiddle. We also don’t need multiple sites dealing with invasive plants (here and here). And I‘m pretty sure the website dedicated to the Centennial of Flight can come down… particularly since the Centennial was in 2003.
Today, there are nearly 2,000 top-level federal .gov domains (this means a top-level url, [WEBSITENAME].gov, that links to a distinct website). This includes WhiteHouse.gov, as well as others like USDA.gov, USASpending.gov, NOAA.gov and USA.gov. Under many of these domains are smaller sub-sites and microsites resulting in an estimated 24,000 websites of varying purpose, design, navigation, usability, and accessibility.
While many government websites each deliver value to the taxpayer through easy-to-use services and information, an overall online landscape of literally thousands of websites – each focusing on a specific topic or organization – can create confusion and inefficiency.
In addition to confusing the public, duplicate and unnecessary websites also waste money. And while the costs for some of these websites may be relatively small, as President Obama also said in the video, ”No amount of waste is acceptable. Not when it’s your money, not at a time when so many families are already cutting back.”
So the federal government will do more with less, improving how it delivers information and services to the public by reducing the number of websites it maintains. To help drive this change we’ve set a specific goal that over the next year, we’ll get rid of at least half of them.
Watch the video in which President Obama talks about his campaign to cut waste:
[Thanks to Gary Price at InfoDocket for the tip!]
I’m sure all you policy wonks are itching to hear President Obama’s second [w:State of the Union address] (SOTU) tonight (9PM EST / 6PM PST). There has been plenty of news coverage prognosticating about what Obama will talk about. WI Representative Paul Ryan is scheduled to give the Republican response to Obama’s SOTU.
If you’re REALLY wonky, you’ll definitely want to tune in to Sunlight Live where you’ll get the CSPAN live video, live real time blogging with Sunlight Foundation, Huffington Post, Center for Public Integrity, National Journal and CQ Roll Call, government transparency data and twitter coverage all wrapped into one page!
Sunlight’s coverage will begin 30 minutes before SOTU starts. Thanks Sunlight!