In popular shows, on-screen sleuths have a knack for connecting everyday people to answers: finding long-lost siblings, tracing ancestral roots, or unearthing evidence that supports a life’s work.
In real life, historical research often takes a DIY approach that requires time, patience and attention to detail—and when you need help, sometimes you need to phone a credible friend.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) answers that call with the History Hub. The platform connects agencies, researchers, and a bevy of citizen archivists within its online community to help the public through its research journeys.
NARA, known as the keeper of the public’s record, launched the program in 2016. Its ask-an-archivist format allows the general public to post questions in moderated forums on topics ranging from military history to genealogy.
To the novice, data sources may seem inaccessible by location, complicated, and either overwhelmingly large or in limited supply—but even more seasoned seekers can encounter problems, too.
History Hub bridges this gap, connecting researchers with experts. Experienced researchers and members of the community can chime in too, sharing the wealth of their knowledge with novice users.
Participants will learn how:
- The public finds immediate answers to common questions.
- This approach frees busy archival staff to focus on deeper tasks.
- Multiple agencies can collaborate on complex inquiries, providing information that spans institutional barriers.
- The hub plays a role by granting access to archivists, historians, and their expertise when research rooms and other physical locations are closed.
- You and your staff can join and participate.
Kelly Osborn is a community manager and web developer in the Office of Innovation at NARA. Prior to joining the National Archives, she was a web developer for the publishers of The Atlantic and Science, as well as the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum.
Rebecca L. Collier serves as the research services History Hub coordinator. She has 35 years experience in archival reference, having worked in Textual Reference at the National Archives since 1985. In her time at NARA, she has authored and edited several award-winning archival finding aids and records guides. Although she has knowledge about many of the records in the custody of the National Archives, she has the most expertise in 20th century military topics, especially those pertaining to WWII and the Korean War.
Darren Cole is a community manager and digital engagement specialist in NARA’s Office of Innovation. In addition to History Hub, he has supported a number of National Archives’ online projects, including “Today’s Document,” which shares NARA holdings from that date in history across multiple social media channels. In between other projects, he enjoys developing animated GIFs from NARA’s wide array of holdings for the National Archives GIPHY channel.
This series illuminates how U.S. agencies are reaching beyond their typical channels to source talent and enthusiasm to multiply the ideas and perspectives being brought to a particular issue. Don’t miss these previous episodes:
- Episode 8: NASA@WORK, with Carissa Callini and Jeff Doi, NASA
- Episode 7: Crowdsourcing for Code, with Amin Mehr, Code.gov
- Episode 6: FedRAMP Ideation, with Betsy Steele, GSA
- Episode 5: History by the People, with Lauren Algee, Library of Congress
- Episode 4: Open Opportunities, with Lisa Nelson, USAJOBS, OPM
- Episode 3: The Opportunity Project, with Drew Zachary and Lorena Molina-Irizarry, U.S. Census Bureau
- Episode 2: Challenges and Prize Competitions, with Jarah Meador, GSA, and Jessie Buerlein, HHS
- Episode 1: Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science, with John McLaughlin, NOAA, and Sophia B. Liu, USGS
This talk is hosted by Challenge.gov. Managed by GSA, Challenge.gov serves as the hub for federally sponsored prize competitions. The Challenge.gov team offers training and resources that help government agencies apply crowdsourcing, prizes and citizen science methods.