On February 29, 2012, NYU’s Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists in conjunction with the National Archives at New York City invited students from NYU, Pratt Institute, Queen’s College and Long Island University to attend a talk with David S. Ferriero, the 10th Archivist of the United States.
NYU’s Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists extends their gratitude and appreciation to Mr. Ferriero for his time and openness in speaking with us. We would also like to thank Patrick Connelly, Trina Yeckley and Sam Anthony from the National Archives, and Peter Wosh our NYU Program Director, for all their assistance in organizing this event.
During this informal conversation, held at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, the Archivist based his discussion on questions from the audience. This talk was a wonderful opportunity for students, as Mr. Ferriero told them to ask any question they might have. The Archivist also encouraged students to email him any future questions.
While the Archivist did not deliver a formal speech, the wide ranging Q&A touched upon many of the current conversations and concerns within the archival community.
One important topic discussed was the role of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and of its leadership to the larger archival community. As we all know, NARA safeguards and preserves the most important records of the U.S. government yet it was interesting to learn that only equates to roughly 3% of all records created. The protocols of NARA have often been reflected in the practices of private or independent archives and in the advent of electronic formats, many repositories are watching how NARA handles ingesting these records. The Archivist was enthusiastic about how NARA could help the larger archival community and we hope that future Archivists of the United States will share this vision.
Mr. Ferriero views the archiving of electronic records as an exciting development and challenge for our profession. As such, he discussed the proprietary software Lockheed is developing for NARA to ingest digital formats and it was encouraging to hear of the Archivist’s enthusiasm for open-source software that could be used elsewhere in the archival community.
The Archivist, who is a librarian by training, also spoke about the relationship between librarians, curators and archivists and how they need to work across disciplines to deliver an integrated, seamless level of service that users are increasingly expecting. Mr. Ferriero believes that all research institutions have to strike a balance between providing as much access as possible to materials while at the same time safeguarding collections for the future.
The Archivist’s recounting of several stories about “treasures” found in the National Archives was certainly one of the more interesting aspects of the discussion. It also segued nicely to his charging all current and future archivists with the job of sharing these types of stories with their communities. Archives are being transformed into public centers where the stories of our past are protected for our future and sharing these stories may be the best way to ensure our future. This is why NARA now has blogs, Facebook, Twitter and You Tube accounts and more than 7,000 photographs on Flickr. David Ferriero also has his own blog, AOTUS.
After the talk, students expressed their appreciation for an informative, interesting and overall enjoyable experience. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet and speak with the Archivist and we hope to have the opportunity to participate in future events with the National Archives.