PublicHistory Challenges at the National Archives: A Discussion of Issues and Options

AHA Session 18
Thursday, January 7, 2016: 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Inman Room (Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta Conference Center Level)
Megan Phillips, National Archives and Records Administration
Challenges Facing the National Archives
Bill Mayer, National Archives and Records Administration
The Audience

Session Abstract

Historians have relied for their research on the records kept at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for generations. Increasingly over the past decade, however, a combination of factors has placed unprecedented stress on the Archives’ facilities and capabilities. An overwhelming majority of historians surveyed in 2013 now worry that they will no longer be to find the records—both paper and electronic, they require for their scholarship.

This special focus session with feature two short presentations, one from historians' and one from NARA's point of view, after which it will shift to a facilitated discussion of historians’ and archivists’ greatest concerns and ideas for possible paths forward.

Professor Richard Immerman, the chair of the Historical Advisory Committee to the Department of State, conducted a survey of 800 historians to gather information on their priorities for and experiences doing research at NARA, including in declassified records of American foreign relations.  He will present and assess his findings and will discuss the changes experienced by researchers using the archives over the last 30 years.

Bill Mayer, NARA Executive for Research Services, will discuss the challenges facing the archives, including processing, description, reference, and space for archival storage, during an era when resources dwindle as the volume of paper records increases and electronic records demand new archival skills and technologies.

This session will provide a much-needed forum for historians to discuss their needs and hopes with NARA and for NARA to explain the very difficult choices it is currently

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