Social media boosts Archives' usability

Monday - 12/27/2010, 11:12am EST

David Ferriero, U.S. Archivist

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The National Archives and Records Administration is making historic documents accessible to everyone through social media.

"We need to meet the users where they are," said U.S. Archivist David Ferriero in an interview with Federal News Radio.

NARA now has blogs, a Facebook page, Twitter accounts and more than 7,000 photographs on Flickr, Ferriero said.

The agency also started a wiki for people to post what they have learned through doing research. NARA staff verifies that the information posted is accurate, Ferriero said.

"People can tell us what they've discovered so we can augment our records. The next person who's doing a similar kind of search will benefit from past researchers' experience," he said.

Social media is also improving both internal and external communication, Ferriero said.

"There's a fair amount of excitement about the interaction, the immediacy of the communication that has encouraged people," he said. "Visually, to be able to see our records used in various ways by the user community in ways that we never expected have been exciting kinds of opportunities for the staff."

The embrace of social media in every agency poses a records-keeping challenge for NARA. The agency has created the Electronic Records Archive to "ingest" electronic data, such as tweets or Facebook updates. Questions remain about what kinds of digital records would fall under ERA. For example, a blog post could become part of the official record, and so could the responses to the post.

For now, ERA is still a "work in progress," Ferriero said.