Archive for March, 2011

Thinking About Leadership

Written on: March 25, 2011 | 5 Comments

At the National Archives, leadership is shown throughout the agency by staff at all levels — senior executives, supervisors, specialists, technicians, students, and volunteers. Our leaders are important to fulfilling our mission on a daily basis, and crucial to the transformative changes we’ve set in motion at the National Archives. For our agency, it’s important for us to think about leadership — what it is, how it is accomplished, and how it can be improved.


Recently, I read the book, “Thinking About Leadership” by Nannerl Keohane, a former colleague and friend of mine from Duke University. She brings to this book a background in both active leadership (President of Wellesley College and Duke University) and political philosophy. Her goal is to “open up the ‘black box’ and shed light on leadership from this dual angle: as a theorist and a practitioner.” She sets out to provide a “fuller sense of the aims and activities of leaders and suggest how we might judge their performance.”

Leadership, according to Keohane, is “central to almost all collective social activity” and the following broad definition allows for the variety that is to be found:

“Leaders determine or clarify goals for a group of individuals and bring together the energies of members of that group to accomplish those goals.”

Leaders get things done by setting priorities “among issues that… [ Read all ]

Sunshine Week 2011

Written on: March 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

This week, public interest groups, media organizations, government agencies, and citizens celebrate Sunshine Week and the Annual Freedom of Information Day. As part of Sunshine Week the White House has launched a new “Good Government” portal as a resource for citizens. At public events and congressional hearings this week, leadership of the National Archives — including myself — are participating in the dialogue around open government and freedom of information.

At the National Archives, open government is an ongoing commitment to strengthen transparency, participation, and collaboration in order to better serve the American people.

The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at the National Archives is an important symbol of both the Obama Administration’s commitment to Open Government and Congress’s vision of a better Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). OGIS serves the American people by providing mediation services to resolve FOIA disputes as well as reviewing agencies’ FOIA policies, procedures, and compliance. Their role is to advocate for the proper administration of the Freedom of Information Act itself.

For Sunshine Week, I encourage you to read the recently released OGIS report, “The First Year: Building Bridges Between FOIA Requesters and Federal Agencies,” as well as check out the Department of Justice’s new FOIA website.


Sunshine Week is also an opportunity to discuss… [ Read all ]

Celebrating 10 Years of Wikipedia

Written on: March 15, 2011 | 11 Comments

I’m a big fan of Wikipedia. It’s often the first place I go for information. According to a recent Pew Internet report, I’m also not alone. Forty-two percent of all Americans also turn to Wikipedia for information online.

Every month, almost 80 million people visit Wikipedia and more than 91,000 active contributors have worked on more than 17 million articles in more than 270 languages. Altogether there have been almost 450 million edits!

Wikipedia is an impressive, awe-inspiring resource. In my previous role as Director of the New York Public Libraries, I encouraged staff to contribute to and use Wikipedia. For some librarians and a few archivists — Wikipedia is sometimes not readily embraced. I’ve heard the concerns about accuracy and reliability, but there have been comparative studies that show errors do not appear more frequently in Wikipedia than its printed counterparts. By design, errors can be corrected and neutrality contested. The power lies with you to flag or change content you find incorrect or biased.

On January 22, the National Archives hosted over 90 Wikipedians at WikiXDC, the Washington, D.C. celebration of Wikipedia’s 10th anniversary. This daylong event featured lightening talks, unconference sessions, and behind-the-scene tours of the stacks of the National Archives.  During the event, National Archives staff introduced our records and online resources to Wikipedians,… [ Read all ]

Interview with Peter Wood, Author of Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War

Written on: March 4, 2011 | 0 Comments

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to sit down with Peter Wood, professor of history, emeritus, at Duke University to talk with him about his recent book, Near Andersonville: Winslow Homer’s Civil War. The book tells the story of Winslow Homer’s remarkable Civil War-era painting, Near Andersonville.

In the following video, Peter describes how the painting came to be in the private collection of the family of a teacher, Sarah Kellogg, who lived on the Sea Islands in South Carolina and taught liberated slaves during the Civil War.

Peter relied on the records of the National Archives to tell the story of Near Andersonville.  At the end of the interview above, he describes the Union Troops’ failed attempt to liberate the prisoners of Andersonville. The captured soldiers are pictured in the painting. In the slideshow below, you will find the July 26, 1864 letter from General Stoneman to General Sherman requesting permission to try to release the prisoners.  He says, “Now is the time to do it before the Rebel Army falls back and covers that country – and I have every inducement to try it.”

A portion of the July 26, 1864 letter from General Stoneman to General Sherman

Also from the National Archives, is the pension application from Winslow Homer’s… [ Read all ]