Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NARA asks for public comments

This was posted to the Archives discussion list.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is giving public notice that we propose to enter into a non-exclusive agreement with The Generations Network, Inc. (TGN) to digitize and further expand public access to archival holdings in NARA's custody. Your comments on the terms of the proposed agreement are invited. Comments must be received by April 9, 2008.

Please go to http://www.archives.gov/comment/tgn-preamble.html for an overview of the draft agreement and a link to the agreement.
I find it interesting to see NARA gather public comments on its digitization initiatives. You might remember that last September, NARA posted its draft Plan for Digitizing Archival Materials for Public Access, 2007-2016 and asked for public comments (related blog post). The finalized plan will be posted here when complete. These are national assets that they want to digitize -- and in this case with a for-profit company -- so it is important that we (the people) understand what they are agreeing to do and the impact on our access. In this case, the highlights of the proposal, according to NARA, are:
  1. The records to be digitized will be mutually agreed to, with NARA having final approval.
  2. The partner in this proposed agreement, TGN, is in the business of converting records of historical and genealogical value into digital form, and publishing them on the Internet and on other digital media.
  3. NARA will receive digital copies of all holdings that are digitized as part of this agreement. As with all of NARA's digitization agreements, there will be no charge for researchers at any time to access the digital copies in any of NARA's research rooms.
  4. Benefits to researchers included in this agreement are: free access to the digitized images and indexes in NARA's research rooms nationwide; links to and from NARA's online Archival Research Catalog; and the opportunity to purchase copies of the documents in digital format.
  5. Individual project plans will be established that identify the specific records to be digitized and specify metadata and other details that will apply to those records.
  6. The first selection of archival materials will be a test project and, upon its mutually satisfactory review, the parties will define and continue to define additional archival materials to be digitized and will produce project plans for succeeding projects.
  7. NARA's agreement with TGN will be non-exclusive. NARA has already reached digitizing agreements with other entities and will continue to consider additional agreements.
  8. TGN will pay all costs for conservation, metadata creation, pulling and refiling records, and digitizing the records.
I've highlighted #4 above. Free access from NARA reading rooms, but perhaps not free access from the NARA web site? mmm....am I reading that correctly? How do you feel about that? Do you mind paying for increased access from your computer to NARA documents?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sure sounds like a sweet deal for a private business and a lousy one for all of us who live in the 33 states with no NARA center. What other birght ideas are coming out of Washington? Are we going to have to pay some private business in order to vote in November? Will this business hold copyright of the images? If NARA doesn't have the budget to provide us with internet access to our archives, how about increase the budget, or NARA can charge user-fees like our National Parks and England's National Archives do. Does somebody at NARA have stock in the corporations getting these contracts? The NARA website already tells you to go pay one of these companies if you want to see the censuses. This public-private partnership stuff sure gives the public the short end of the stick. Somebody needs to investigate this one. It smells.