Returning here brings back lots of memories of my days here... particularly reminds me of how much things have changed since I graduated, just before Bill Gates founded Microsoft and Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak founded Apple, and the Internet was a government technology experiment. I still remember very first fax machine at MIT... when a fax was received, it was ripped off and immediately put into the campus mail. When the Christian Science Monitor was experimenting with delivery ...
Coping with changes in information technology is a challenge for those that got started back in the day. But I would argue that institutions where many of us built careers confronted a even bigger challenge than replacing typewriters with networked computers. Those institutions struggled with replacing traditional ways of thinking with new ones. That challenge had been especially daunting for archives and libraries which are often more comfortable preserving the past than bridging the future in their DNA and for higher education which is blessed with and burdened by such ... tradition.
Which brings me to Wikipedia...If you look up Charles Van Doren in Wikipedia, the first thing you see is he was caught up in the 1950s quiz show scandals, he was also a distinguished scholar and editor of the encyclopedia Britannica.
Van Doran once said, "Because the world is radically new, the ideal encyclopedia should be radical too."
Wikipedia's challenge is that archives and higher education tend to be weary of anything radical. Today, I'm going to discuss some ways of meeting that challenge.
I'll start by talking about the evolving relationship between the National Archives and Wikipedia, then try to draw some lessons that can be useful for higher education and perhaps for the future of our democracy.
I hope that everyone in this room has used the National Archives for scholarly or personal research. If you have, you probably know that our core mission remains unchanged since the day we were created as a federal agency in 1934 to preserve records that are created by the United States government's... more than 275 agencies and the White House. More specifically we preserve 2-3% of all the gov records that are created, those that are important for legal or historical purposes. that may not sound like very much but we now hold approximately 12 billion sheets of paper, 18 million maps, charts and architectural drawings, miles of film and video, 400 million photographs and 5.3 billion electronic records.
In our collection, you will find the most important documents in our history including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Bill or Rights, and you will also find many documents linked to Wikipedia pages. These records are in facilities around the country: 14 regional archives facilities (one here in Boston), 17 federal records centers, 13 presidential libraries (Kennedy ... in Dorchester, one of them), National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis which has all civilian and personnel records... and our facilities in Washington, D.C.
Our collections are growing, especially electronic records ...