Wilmington Resident Patricia Lawler Named National Archives Citizen Archivist 2019
Press Release · Wednesday, June 12, 2019

College Park, MD

At the National Archives annual Archivist’s Awards ceremony on June 12, 2019, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero presented Wilmington, North Carolina, resident Patricia Lawler with the 2019 Citizen Archivist award for creating and teaching the first continuing education course featuring tagging and transcription of National Archives records.  

In presenting the award to Ms. Lawler, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferrerio said, “We are grateful for Patricia’s work as a dedicated citizen archivist. Not only does she contribute her knowledge and expertise to the records of the National Archives, but she  shares these resources with her local community. Her commitment to lifelong learning connects others to the mission of the National Archives and encourages them to engage with and contribute to the records of our nation.”

Patricia Lawler is not only an active citizen archivist, but she is a wonderful ambassador for the program. She stumbled upon the citizen archivist opportunity while conducting background research on her mother's memoirs, and she loves being able to explore all the different kinds of records in the National Archives Catalog while helping to make them easier to find.

As a citizen archivist, Ms. Lawler has contributed 1,004 tags, 11 comments, and 225 transcriptions to records in the National Archives Catalog. Because she enjoyed transcribing , she contacted the local Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UNC Wilmington with an idea to teach a course on becoming a citizen archivist. Ms. Lawler anticipated that a high number of younger retirees in her area, including a large number of former intelligence officers, would be interested in a virtual volunteer opportunity.

The opportunity to transcribe records as a citizen archivist during retirement, says Ms. Lawler,  is “much better than playing yet another game of Solitaire.” Ms. Lawler taught her first three-session course on becoming a citizen archivist in March 2018, and since then has taught two additional courses through various OLLI programs in her local area. In each course, she introduces the program, explains the value and benefit of transcribing documents, and helps new volunteers create user accounts and begin contributing. On the last session of each course, Ms. Lawler invites the National Archives Catalog Community Managers to join the class via video chat. She often explains to retired volunteers that they have a “superpower” of being able to read cursive handwriting when many younger people cannot. She enjoys the pride they feel in knowing that their work transcribing these records is helping to preserve this history and make it more accessible for younger generations.

Citizen Archivist Initiative
The National Archives Citizen Archivist initiative invites volunteers to contribute to the National Archives Catalog by tagging, transcribing, and adding comments to digitized historical records, making them more accessible and searchable online. The citizen archivist approach of providing access and encouraging contributions to our records leverages the collaborative power of the internet to make records more accessible as well as to increase the visibility and value of archives. Additionally, engaging the public as citizen archivists can help us achieve important public education goals. Through citizen archivist projects, we can increase public knowledge of our work as well as inspire future generations of archivists.


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This page was last reviewed on June 12, 2019.
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