[govinfo] sign-on letter on NARA web snapshot decision

  • From: "Patrice McDermott" <pmcdermott@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "GOVDOC-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <GOVDOC-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 21 Apr 2008 12:35:06 -0400

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has decided to not 
record a "snapshot" of government web pages at the end of the current 
Administration (as it did at the end of the Clinton Admin and of the 109th 
Congress). The letter below urges the Archivist to rescind that decision.

Background information is provided here:



NARA's response to the bad publicity is here: 

The deadline is Monday, 28 April. If you want to sign your organization on, 
please let Vivek Shah know.

Patrice McDermott, Director
202.332.OPEN (6736)
April   , 2008

Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States
National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20408

Dear Dr Weinstein,

We are writing to express our serious concerns about the National Archives and 
Record Administration's decision to not record a "snapshot" of government web 
pages at the end of the current Administration. Federal websites are federal 
records and, therefore, must be treated as such and preserved appropriately. As 
the site for the 2004 Presidential Term Web Harvest indicates, the first such 
snapshot was "intended to document Federal agencies' presence on the World Wide 
Web at the time that the Presidential Administration term ended in early 2005." 
Indeed, NARA also captured House and Senate public web sites as they existed 
prior to December 11 2006, at the end of the109th Congress (2006). A precedent, 
thus, has been clearly established for this important method of preserving a 
moment in our country's history.

It is our understanding that in NWM 13.2008, the reasons for this decision 
include that
Existing, private entities such as the Internet Archive (archives.org) already 
record federal web pages; and
NARA does not consider such a snapshot to possess enough historical value to 
warrant its recording.

The work of organizations like the Internet Archive, while valuable, does not 
supplant the responsibility of our national government to protect and document 
its own history and the NARA snapshot is the critical component of the Nation's 
historical record.  No other agency has both the public mandate and the public 
accountability necessary for protecting historical records.

Moreover, depending on private, non-profit organizations to keep our Nation's 
digital history poses serious risks. What guarantee is there that the Internet 
Archive or any similar organization, and the records they keep, will still 
exist 10, 15, or a hundred years from now?  How do we ensure that these records 
will be freely available and without limitations on their use?

A snapshot of federal web pages is, indeed, of great historical value. They 
provide the public with an image and understanding of the government at a 
particular point in time that can be then compared and contrasted with other 
such images over Administrations.  Such comparison is of immense historical 
value because it allows the public direct access to federal digital records at 
a given time in history.  As Congress and Federal agencies continue to move 
more and more of their work online, proactive and detailed digital archiving is 
essential for public awareness and government accountability.

We urge you to rescind your decision and continue NARA's web harvesting program 
by archiving a snapshot of all federal web pages at the end of the current 
presidential term.  Not capturing federal websites now may mean losing millions 
of pages created during the Bush administration. Allowing such a loss is 
contrary to the trust in and the mission of the National Archives and Records 

We would welcome the opportunity to meet and discuss our concerns with you.  
Thank you in advance for considering this request. Please contact Patrice 
McDermott at 202-332-6736 with any questions.



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