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NARA Asks for Help Navigating Presidential Records

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, April 8 2009

The National Archives and Records Administration -- those fine civil servants who handle post presidential records and the monuments to POTUSes gone by known as presidential libraries -- is trolling for comments on how they might make the archives of past administration more accessible and more cost effective, in compliance with the 2008 Presidential Historical Records Preservation Act which was specifically aimed at digitizing and disseminating those records. (via Gavin Baker)

NARA offers up a few suggested suggestions: do away with individualized archives and gather all the presidential papers in one central location, separate archiving and memorializing duties and hand the latter to a third party, or just put the whole shebang online. NARA also floats the idea of switching to a proactive release of presidential papers instead of the piecemeal FOIA-driven approach that applies during the buffer period just after a president leaves office. But don't let their ideas stymie your creativity. "We provide these examples," they write, "to spur, not to constrain, your suggestions." The distinctions are, of course, rather important. For one thing, there is expected to be intense interest in the presidential records of the George W. Bush administration. And for another thing, the way presidential libraries get themselves funded is rather shady, and offers up a backdoor for anyone wanting to curry favor with a sitting president-turned fundraiser. NARA's call seems like rich opportunity for a good-government group or like-minded activists to get some attention for alternative ways to handle presidential records.

Comments are due by next Friday, the 17th, and can be submitted via email.