A Look Back at 2020

As 2020 comes to a close, we’re taking a look back at a year unlike any other. 

The National Archives and Records Administration–with research rooms, museums, Federal Records Centers, and Presidential Libraries across the country–closed its doors in March and, for the most part, remained closed as part of our commitment to the health and safety of staff, researchers, and visitors.

Throughout the year, our staff kept working to meet the agency’s strategic goal of making access happen, but now their work focused on virtual access, from improving the Catalog to uploading new historic footage. Our citizen archivists kept on tagging and transcribing and helped set new records. The Fourth of July, our biggest in-person event, became a successful online one.

Join us as we look back at some of the good moments of 2020!

Fighting the Coronavirus

National Archives staff have mostly worked from home in 2020, but they did not forget frontline workers. Our conservation staff recognized that extra PPE could go to the fight against the coronavirus, and staff at our facilities around the country pulled out spare PPE to donate these supplies where they were needed.

Officials from the National Archives and the Washington, DC, Emergency Management Team load a van with personal protective equipment at the National Archives in College Park, MD, March 23, 2020. From left: NARA supply analyst Freddie Freeman, Ryan Lewis from the DC Emergency Response Team, NARA supply analyst Sandy Paulino-Trinidad. (Photo courtesy of Calvin Shoulders)

And a small number of staff have been coming into the workplace to make sure that mission-critical work could continue. Thank you to each of them.

Next-Generation Finding Aids

We launched several new tools to make even more online access happen! 

Citizen Archivists and the Catalog

Thanks to our community of citizen archivists, more than ONE MILLION pages of records are now enhanced by citizen archivist contributions to the National Archives Catalog. Thank you to each of them!

And 400 black and white reels of stock footage are now in the Catalog, thanks to researchers and staff!

July 4 Goes Virtual

Our annual July 4 celebration usually involves gathering together on the steps of the National Archives Building to celebrate the Declaration of Independence. This year, we worked with our partners at the National Archives Foundation to create a fully virtual celebration! 

Social Media Strategy

We have 18 blogs and more than 115 accounts on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and more, and so a current strategy is key to success on social media. Staff across the National Archives contributed to creating our new social media strategy!

YouTube Keeps Growing

You Tube is an important part of making our archival film and public programs accessible. We have been posting our public programs to our YouTube channel for several years, and so despite the pandemic, we were able to continue bringing panel discussions, author talks, and new special programming for our youngest fans to the public through this platform.

On the Truman Presidential Library’s channel, all archival videos with sound are now accurately captioned.

The Carter Presidential Library launched a YouTube channel.

Our staff in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab continued to upload more historic footage to both our Catalog and YouTube channel, from marionettes to fun 1970s pieces.

Electoral College

The Electoral College is a process, not a place, and every four years the Federal Register (part of the National Archives) administers this process. You can see 2020’s Certificates of Ascertainment and Vote for all fifty states on our Electoral College webpage.

Certificate of Vote for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Centennial of the 19th Amendment

While 2020 will be remembered as the year of a worldwide pandemic, it marked other historic occasions, such as the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. And though the “Rightfully Hers” exhibit in the National Archives Building could no longer be visited in person, visitors could explore it through a series of Google Cultural Institute posts. The curator also took over our Instagram account to share stories from the exhibit.

The National Archives teamed up with the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress for #19SuffrageStories. This social media campaign highlighted the stories of the diverse group of women who fought for the right to vote, before and after the 19th Amendment. We even created a set of GIFs based on records from the holdings of the three institutions!

Our buildings across the country were illuminated in purple and gold. And additional funding from the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission also meant that pop-up exhibits could be sent out to schools, libraries, and other places across the country. 

Looking Ahead to 2021

As 2020 comes to a close, we hope that you are safe and healthy. Thank you to our staff, our citizen archivists, and our virtual visitors for your commitment to history and to the National Archives and our mission!

Keep up with our work and learn what our experts are doing by reading the National Archives News on our webpage, or follow one of our accounts on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

We look forward to sharing more history with you in 2021. Happy New Year!

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