Citizen Archivists: Engage with and Explore the Archives

Uploaded by usnationalarchives on 07.09.2010

An independent researcher is any civilian, not a government employee, who operates out
of the National Archives performing research for themselves, clients or practically anyone.
I’m Jonathan Webb Deiss, I am an independent researcher.
I was lucky enough to be hired to research some Revolutionary War records and had to
look in the records of the Senate. I found a diary in those files that was dated 1780.
It was put in the records of the Senate in 1836 and basically lay unrecognized until
this day. I apparently was the first person to understand its importance and its significance
and flag it.
And I call that a “citizen archivist.” I’m David Ferriero. I’m the Archivist
of the United States. We have ten billion items in the Archives collection. And we don’t
have the staff to actually work through and read every piece of paper that we have in
the collection. So that’s why engaging the people who are actually using the collection
is a way for enhancing what we know about them.
What I’m doing now is inking, this is a stage in comics that comes after penciling.
My name is Jon White. I’m an educational cartoonist and designer, living here in Washington,
The National Archives maintains a feature on their website called, “Today’s Document.”
What I thought to do in early 2010 was to take each one of those pieces a few times
a week and reinterpret it with an eye for a younger audience.
I don’t think anyone has yet drawn General Washington just after the Battle of Trenton
eating a burger.
We’re actually experimenting with the various kinds of activities to engage citizen archivists.
We’ve just launched a wiki, an interactive website, where we can encourage our researchers
to share with us what they learned.
We’re doing some volunteer work, digitizing the enlistment papers of Indian scouts. We
will be putting the records online and linking them to the new “Our Archives” wiki.
This is my website, “” The actual event here is the impeachment of
Andrew Johnson. This is a scene from, I suppose, a heaven of great presidents. You’ll notice
that Andrew Johnson is ostracized.
We’ve all seen these documents on microfilm and we’ve all seen them in reproductions
but to actually find one is extremely rare. It’s been pulled from the records, it was
sent to conservation who then did some preservation work on it and it’s now currently in the
vaults. It’s locked away.
Give us some ideas of other ways that we might involve you in this “citizen archivist”