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Visitors wait in line at the National Archives to view the Declaration of Independence (against the wall, center right), preserved under glass and special lighting, ahead of the Fourth of July Independence Day holiday in Washington, July 3, 2013. (JONATHAN ERNST/Reuters/Corbis)

The National Archives Wants to Put Its Whole Collection on Wikimedia Commons

The National Archives and Records Administration plans to upload everything it can

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration has some amazing documents:

But the collections don't only focus on the founding of the country—they're an incredibly varied lot. They include documents ranging from Robert E. Lee's resignation letter from the U.S. Army to thousands of books and documents describing the lives of Jewish people in Iraq that were discovered by the U.S. Army in 2003. And all of these documents and photographs and records should soon be available online—for free—as part of the Wikimedia Commons project.

In 2012, NARA uploaded 100,000 images to Wikimedia Commons, a partner of Wikipedia. Now, in a report laying out their Open Government Plan for 2014—2016, the National Archives lays out a plan to build on this success. Eventually, says FedScoop, the agency will upload as much as possible:

[W]hile the report isn’t specific on an end goal for how much of the archives the administration plans to upload, [the National Archive's] McDevitt-Parks said they’ll digitize anything and everything they can.

“[W]e are not limiting ourselves to particular collections,” he told The Signpost. “Our approach has always been simply to upload as much as possible … to make them as widely accessible to the public as possible.”

The goal of the project is to get the interesting, varied and important documents and records held by the Archives in front of as many eyeballs as possible. According to their report, the project seems to be working: the 4,000 Wikipedia articles and Wikimedia projects that used their imagery garnered more than a billion views, far more than could fit through the National Archives in Washington D.C. in such a short span of time.

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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