Washington, DC is home to some of the most fantastic museums in the world. Museums where visitors see one of a kind objects, are transported around the world through expositions, and participate in unique programming. The National Archives is one of those museums. Here, visitors contemplate our democracy while examining the signed Constitution of the United States, travel the world as they view records documenting our interactions with other nations, and become inspired and engaged through programming for everyone pre-K to adults.
Four years ago, the National Archives, in partnership with the National Archives Foundation, began a sleepover program for young museum goers. Designed for children 8-12 years old and their accompanying adults, these sleepovers are inspiring the next generation of historians, stewards of our nations records, and advocates for the work of the Archives. The themes for the sleepovers change, offering a glimpse into the diversity of holdings in the Archives and an opportunity for participants to come back again and again.
This past weekend, 120 participants from across the country embarked on this year’s space themed sleepover in commemoration of the JFK centennial. These participants got the “star” treatment right from the start as they paused to look through a telescope set up at the museum’s entrance. After getting checked in, and being welcomed by both the Archivist of the United States and the Executive Director of the National Archives Foundation during orientation, sleepover goers set out to see if they were suited for space. Hands-on activities throughout the museum engaged participants and ignited imaginations. A few examples of activities include making mission patches, putting together astronaut John Glenn’s genealogy scrap book, dressing like a space explorer, and training like an astronaut using neutral buoyancy. NARA also collaborated with the National Air and Space Museum who brought over telescopes, meteorites, and astronaut underwear, with Catherine Kruchten who taught participants how to engineer their own rockets, and astronaut George Zamka who shared experiences of his time in space. If you would like to see some of his experiences in space, look in the holdings of the National Archives. At the end of the night, everyone slept in the Rotunda next to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
With Archives Sleepovers, participants not only see one of a kind objects, but sleep next to them. They are transported not only around the world but out of the world as they encounter the universe of space exploration. The unique programming that happens here could not happen anyplace else. Each one of the billions of records in the holdings of the National Archives unlocks a piece of what it means to be an American and adds to the stories told here.
Each amazing sleepover experience would not be possible without ideas, planning, creating, and enacting of many interns, volunteers and staff. Each person involved in the process helps to make the Archives sleepovers a success from A to Zzzzzzz. If you are interested in joining us, the next sleepover is set to blast off on February 24, 2018.
On October 19, 2017 the FOIA Advisory Committee will meet in the William G. McGowan Theater. The three subcommittees will each present their ideas to the full Committee and the public for how to improve the administration of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and improve FOIA processes.
As I blogged about last June, the FOIA Advisory Committee is charged with looking broadly at the challenges that agency FOIA programs are starting to face in light of an ever-increasing volume of born-electronic records, and chart a course for how FOIA should operate now and in the future. The Committee is chaired and staffed by the FOIA Ombudsman’s office located within the National Archives, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), and includes twenty members with FOIA expertise from inside and outside of government who represent a wide range of interests and perspectives.
At the Committee’s first two quarterly meeting, members discussed the greatest challenges in the administration of FOIA and determined in October 2016 to focus its efforts on three areas: increasing proactive disclosures; improving searches for records; and maximizing efficiencies and resources. To carry out its work, the Committee organized itself into three subcommittees, each of which is co-chaired by a government and a non-government member. Over the last year, these subcommittees have studied the issues and worked collaboratively to begin to develop recommendations to address key problems in the administration of FOIA.
One of the central themes that has emerged as the Committee work has progressed is the undeniable close relationship between a strong records management program and an effective FOIA office; and this relationship will only become even stronger as the volume of electronic records continues to grow. During the last Committee meeting in July 2017, Chief Records Officer Laurence Brewer spoke to the Committee about recent changes to federal records management policy and the steps the National Archives is taking to help transition federal agencies to an electronic recordkeeping environment and speed up the adoption of modern electronic recordkeeping practices. At the upcoming meeting, the National Archives former Director of Litigation, Jason R. Baron, will also address how the transition to electronic recordkeeping impacts an agency’s FOIA program.
I look forward to hearing about the subcommittees’ work, and to receiving the Committee’s final recommendations at the end of its term. Please join me for the October 19 FOIA Advisory Committee meeting in person and register using Eventbrite. The meeting will also be livestreamed via the National Archives YouTube Channel if you are unable to attend in person.
(One proximate cause of this is that, through the Python community, I've met multiple nice people who are organizing or championing PyCon North America in Cleveland in 2018 and 2019, and who will show me around a bit. Another is the United Airlines rep who, while trying to reroute us on our solar eclipse trip, said, "The only place in the United States I can get you tonight is Cleveland" which sounds more like a Call to Adventure than most bad travel news does.)
I'm particularly interested in hiking, walking tours, live folk and rock music, history (especially political, social, and science and engineering history), pair programming, and trains. I'll be there Friday October 20th through Sunday October 22nd. I'm also open to giving a talk or two while in Cleveland. Feel free to leave comments on this post -- the spam filter is rather aggressive but I'll fish things out regularly!
(One proximate cause of this is that, through the Python community, I've met multiple nice people who are organizing or championing PyCon North America in Cleveland in 2018 and 2019, and who will show me around a bit. Another is
A: "I saw the eclipse in Nashville."
B: "Oh I'm from Nashville!"
A: "Oh cool! Did you see it there too!"
B: "No, I didn't, I don't live there anymore."
A: "So you're from Nashville. Do you play an instrument? Are you a musician?"
B: "No, I'm not."
A: "Is that why you had to leave? Is there some age by which the Machine sends you a notification that you have to choose an Instrument and perform at the Audition?"
C: "I'm imagining that scene from A Wrinkle in Time, the street of identical houses, everyone in a row on the sidewalk, with their guitars."
A:"Playing 'Wonderwall', all at the same time. And you show up at the Audition, like, 'I'm Divergent, I'm not gonna choose an Instrument, I'm leaving!'"
B: "This is actually a little too real."
(You may also enjoy Randomized Dystopia, a.k.a. Assorted Abrogations.)