The National Archives now houses an estimated 12 billion records. When David Naffis joined as a Presidential Innovation Fellow, a daunting effort to digitize every one of them was already underway.
“Part of the challenge was that as digitization ramped up, it needed to be wedged into existing, outdated systems,” reflects Naffis. “So much energy was focused on how that could be done that the actual process of digitization was moving incredibly slowly.”
“By front-loading digitization – making the process of getting records online the central focus – we were able accelerate things. And as the benefits of digitization became clearer to a wider circle of stakeholders, more innovative approaches to accommodate conversion emerged.”
“There is always a lot of resistance to change. But by doing the hard work of overcoming barriers to digitization, the Archives has put itself in a far stronger position. It is meeting its mission more effectively by providing far greater public access, achieving substantial cost savings, and freeing up the time of archivists so they can focus on what’s most important. As they anticipate a potential doubling of the number of records they house in the coming years, those gains will be especially critical to their success.”