NARA will use a combination of five strategies for digitizing and making holdings available online:
NARA will gather and make available on the web archival materials that we have already digitized in the course of performing our agency functions, but for one reason or another are not available online.
NARA will establish partnerships with organizations from a variety of sectors (private, public, non-profit, educational, Government) to digitize and make available holdings. Partnerships present an opportunity for increased access to historical Government information through the increased availability of information technology products and services. Partnerships will enable NARA to make more digitized holdings available than we could on our own, because the partner will bear most of the expense of digitizing.
The products of these digitizing partnership efforts may also include value-added services and features provided by the partner, such as searchable text and detailed indexing, and, as such, are not considered NARA Government electronic information dissemination products. However, partners may not claim copyright on the digital images.
To ensure that NARA maintains its public trust, NARA has developed a set of principles to guide partnership agreements. These principles are found at the end of this document. Most significantly, the principles state:
Partnerships are non-exclusive. By “non-exclusive, ” we mean that we will not be seeking a single partner to digitize all of our materials, but that we will welcome different partners for different sets of materials. For preservation reasons, we expect to enter into only one partnership for each set of original materials.
After the agreed-upon period of time, NARA has the right to sell a set of the digital copies to another entity for unrestricted use.
Partners may charge the public for access to their online services, but online access to the products of the partnerships will always remain free in NARA research rooms. NARA would prefer, of course, that public access is free or very inexpensive in all cases; but market realities dictate otherwise, and we believe that the dramatic increase in access provided by partnerships is in the public interest. Moreover, because access to the holdings is now available (free) in all NARA research rooms-not just in the location that houses the originals – partnerships significantly increase free access to the holdings. Partnerships also offer researchers an alternative for accessing NARA holdings if the researcher is not able to come to a NARA facility or does not wish to purchase reproductions from NARA.
After the agreed-upon period of time, NARA will have the right to provide free online access to the digitized materials. We will strive to minimize that period of time, with short time frames making a partnership offer more attractive; we cannot, however, categorically identify a maximum time because of the many variables in a partnership proposal. We intend in principle to make the digital copies available as quickly as funds and capabilities allow, once permitted to do so by the terms of the partnership.
We will publicize and seek written comments on proposed partnerships before they are signed. We will do so by alerting the public and interested communities by making announcements on our web sites and posting messages on major listservs. At the same time, we will be careful to protect the proprietary or other sensitive business information of our potential partners.
NARA will conduct digitizing projects on its own with materials that are not appropriate for partnerships. For example, we might digitize our “treasure vault,” or at-risk material that only NARA can handle, or high-interest materials for which no partner can be found. These projects could take a variety of forms, with a variety of funding sources. The projects would be crafted with an eye toward enabling NARA to enhance its capacity to preserve and digitize holdings.
NARA will pursue digitization of archival materials as part of its preservation reformatting approach.
We continually reformat at-risk archival materials so that they may continue to be used by the public. A paper document may become so fragile that we need to create a copy for public access; or, a video recording made in an outdated format, such as Betamax, must be transferred to a modern format that can be viewed on current equipment. As supplies of traditional analog reformatting media diminish due to market forces, digitization is becoming a key activity in NARA’s preservation reformatting strategy. We are in the process of adopting a digital workflow for preservation reformatting which will yield tremendous access opportunities as well. NARA commits to leveraging the work done to convert these materials by making them available online to users.
To ensure that users everywhere can access all of our digitized records, we will continue to make our online catalog (currently the Archival Research Catalog, ARC) a hub for discovering NARA’s digital images. Our partners, our describers, and our digital labs are creating data that we assimilate into ARC, so that users have comprehensive access to NARA’s digital copies, whether on NARA’s web site or our partners’ web sites, regardless of their location on the web. Users will not only be provided efficient access to the records via the online catalog, but will also have the archival context of those records.