Citizen Archivists Advance Citizen Diplomacy

Posted by Dean E. Cheves
July 23, 2010
Volunteers Scan Photos for Archives Project

About the Author: Dean Cheves is a Foreign Service Officer and new media strategist currently with the IIP Office of Innovative Engagement (OIE). OIE Interns Mrudula Venigalla and Evan Kalikow contributed.

Countless interactions between U.S. diplomats and leaders and citizens worldwide have influenced millions of lives. These interactions may go unrecognized beyond the space and time of those present during the event. Thankfully, official photographers have preserved the events and people who make history. Images released by the Bureau of Administration's Information Programs and Services to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) are stored in warehouses and are visible only to certified researchers.

The Bureau of International Information Program's Office of Innovative Engagement (IIP/OIE) has spearheaded a collaborative project to make many of those history-making images available to all. With the help of the Bureau of Administration, Bureau of Public Affairs, NARA, and volunteer groups and the International Amateur Scanning League (IASL), the project to digitize these images commenced on June 16, 2010.

Citizen Archivists Justin Grimes, Liz Pruszko, Ann Galloway, and Jeff DiScal from IASL joined Carl Malamud of and the Honorable David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland to begin scanning the first batch of some 20,000 State Department photos in the NARA archives. After being scanned, the photos will be uploaded to various photo sharing sites online, available publicly to all.

This initiative would not be possible without the contributions of many collaborators throughout the State Department, including Foreign Service Officer Kimberly Harrington who got the original idea off the ground.

All the volunteers are in essence conducting citizen diplomacy by giving their time and energy to this project. We hope that this collection will eventually evolve into a system to which all overseas missions can contribute, serving as a lasting, valuable and transparent resource for everyone.

Read Archivist David Ferriero's entry about the project at his blog.
Visit the NARA archive of selected images on the NARA Archival Research Catalog.
Learn more about the scanning project, visit or the IASL.
View the U.S. Diplomacy Center's Berlin Wall Exhibit to see creative usage of archival images.


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