Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Alaska Digitization Project
1. Why are the records from the closed Anchorage facility being moved to Archives 2 in College Park, Maryland?
Since the closure of our facility in Anchorage in 2014 and the move of these records to the National Archives at Seattle, staff at our Seattle facility has been working diligently to digitize the most in-demand records from these holdings and has made some progress. However, we recognize that with limited staff and equipment available in Seattle, we are not able to make progress at a rate that is acceptable to our stakeholders, and we are taking concrete steps to expedite the digitization of these important records. In FY 2020, our digitization efforts were severely hampered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we have used this time to reevaluate our approach to digitizing these holdings, and to plan to significantly accelerate the digitization of these materials in order to meet our commitment to stakeholders and to increase their availability online.
With the establishment of a new Digitization Division within the Office of Research Services and located at the National Archives at College Park, MD (Archives 2), we now have expanded capacity to digitize large bodies of records. In order to maximize available resources in terms of staff and equipment, portions of the Alaska records will be temporarily moved to Archives 2 starting in May 2021. At Archives 2, our new Digitization Division has a range of digitization equipment and can systematically and efficiently digitize substantial volumes of records.
2. What specific records will be moved to Archives in College Park, Maryland?
All records formerly held at the National Archives in Anchorage, currently held at the National Archives in Seattle, that have not yet been digitized will be temporarily moved to the Archives 2 facility in College Park, MD. The total volume of records is approximately 11,000 cubic feet, or an estimated 27.5 million pages. During FY 2021, approximately 3,600 cubic feet, or an estimated 9 million pages, will be shipped from Seattle to College Park and digitization will commence upon arrival.
The list of records in the first shipment can be found here, the list of records in the second shipment is available here, and the list of records in the third shipment is available here.
3. Will NARA be engaging with external stakeholders to determine digitization priorities?
Over the last year, NARA confirmed the priorities previously identified by stakeholders during our prior consultation efforts. In the coming months, NARA will expand its engagement and consultation with tribal representatives and organizations from Alaska as part of our formal efforts in accordance with the President’s January 26, 2021, Memorandum, “Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships,” and Executive Order 13175, “Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments.”
4. Can I request digitization of specific records?
While the Digitization Division will not be able to accommodate scanning requests for specific records at this time, engagement efforts with external stakeholders will be ongoing throughout the project. The public may recommend specific series of records for prioritization. Please submit suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Will reference services be impacted by the move of the records to College Park?
Digitizing the records from the former Alaska region is a top priority of the National Archives. In order to maximize available resources in terms of staff and equipment, the records are being temporarily moved to the National Archives at College Park. The records will be returned to the National Archives at Seattle for long-term storage after digitization. Approximately 3,600 cubic feet of records were moved in FY 2021 in three shipments:
During the time the records are located in College Park, records will not be available for viewing in the Research Room and reference service will be limited to emergency requests (e.g. requests involving rights and interests, looming court dates, or significant congressional matters) and remote requests for scans, handled on a case-by-case basis, from the National Archives at Seattle. Furthermore, responses to reference inquiries may be impacted during the prep and scanning process. The National Archives at Seattle will provide in-person reference service to the records that currently remain there.
You may send reference inquiries regarding the affected records by email to email@example.com or by postal mail to 6125 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98115-7999.
6. How can I access the digital images of the records?
Digitized copies of fully open records without privacy or similar access concerns will be added to the National Archives Catalog, which is accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Our partners at FamilySearch have also digitized over four hundred thousand pages from Alaska and made these available via their website free of charge. Those images will also soon be available in the National Archives Catalog.
Records with access concerns, such as personally identifiable information (PII), will only be uploaded into NARA’s long-term digital preservation repository, ERA 2.0, and not our public-facing Catalog, until such time the access concerns are addressed with the passage of time or redaction
7. Do these records contain personally identifiable information (PII) and will that impact digitization efforts?
The records from Alaska contain a significant amount of PII of living individuals. This issue impacts multiple records series across the collection including Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) school records, census records, and welfare case files; land records; and court records. These records will need to be screened and redacted after the digitization process and before they can be made available in the National Archives Catalog.
NARA will implement a two-pronged approach towards addressing the access concerns: a systematic effort as part of the unit’s annual workplan and on-demand screening and redaction services in response to reference requests. However, we will make unredacted digitized records available directly to tribes, upon request and based on consultation, except where disclosure would raise legal or regulatory concerns.
8. Where will the records go following their digitization?
Once the digitization and quality control efforts are complete, the records will be sent back to the National Archives at Seattle, where they will be stored for long-term preservation, made available for loans in accordance with NARA policy, and be available for in-person use when the digitized copy is not sufficient.