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Draft Partnership Agreement Available for Public Comment

Posted for Comment:   July 31, 2009
Comments Due:   August 31, 2009
Send Comments To:   Vision@nara.gov or by fax to 301-837-0319

After providing public notice, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) entered into a non-exclusive digital partnership agreement on May 20, 2008, with The Generations Network (TGN), now known as Ancestry.com. The full text of this agreement is available online. One of the provisions of the agreement is that "All use of the Archival Materials must take place at the NARA location set forth in a Project Plan." (See Section 1.2) Several months after implementation of the agreement, Ancestry.com proposed a modification to allow digitization at an off-site facility in the Washington, DC area. Such an arrangement is allowed under item 9 of the "NARA Principles for Partnerships to Digitize Archival Materials" that appear in the May 2008 Strategy for Digitizing Archival Materials for Public Access, 2007-2016. That item reads: "Digitization will take place at a NARA facility or at another facility which has been approved by NARA."

In December 2008, NARA and Ancestry.com agreed to conduct a limited pilot to determine whether NARA archival materials can be safely, efficiently, and securely transported, stored on a temporary basis, prepared for digitizing, and digitized at an off-site location leased by Ancestry.com in Silver Spring, Maryland. NARA proceeded with the pilot because it lacks the space at its own facilities to accommodate the number of camera stations that Ancestry.com proposed to operate at Silver Spring. Successful operation of an off-site digitization facility would significantly increase the digitization capacity under this partnership, leading to expedited achievement of two notable benefits: world-wide access to digitized images of the records and retirement of the records from active reference use. Because all of the facility costs, as well as the full personnel costs for NARA staff doing records preparation and monitoring at the off-site facility, would be paid by Ancestry.com, the benefits associated with the off-site operation would be achieved at no cost to NARA.

NARA developed requirements for Ancestry.com to meet before the pilot could proceed, based on the standards found in Facility Standards for Records Storage Facilities, with limited modifications due to the short time that any specific records would be stored at the facility. In advance of the actual start of the pilot, Ancestry.com worked diligently to meet each of the terms and conditions required by NARA to ensure that the records would be fully safeguarded during the entire process. After needed modifications of the facility and subsequent NARA inspections and approval, the pilot began on April 6, 2009. NARA has been very pleased with the results thus far. There have been no problems relating to records transportation or facility operations. Relative humidity and temperature have been monitored and consistently fall within the range specified. Policies and procedures have been established to meet all NARA requirements in the event of an emergency.

NARA is giving public notice that we propose to enter into the attached draft addendum to the May 20, 2008 agreement to approve the Ancestry.com-Silver Spring facility as suitable for the ongoing digitizing of original archival materials. Your comments on the terms of the proposed draft addendum to the agreement are invited. Comments must be received by August 31, 2009.

All terms and conditions for the approval of this facility have been met and are delineated in the attached draft addendum.

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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