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NARA Frees Their Data, Somewhat

I'm a bit surprised that this hasn't come across anyone's radar, because it seems awfully damn significant to me. According to this post on the A&A listserv by Michael Ravnitzky, the National Archives and Records Administration released an exhaustive database of box holdings of all the Federal Records Centers. He doesn't really say how he obtained this database, but my guess is he just asked based upon his background and interest in public access to government information - I've come across his name on material relating to FOIA before. The file he received from NARA is a 155 MB Microsoft Access database, and soon after he posted about it to the listserv, Jordan Hayes and Phil Lapsley took the opportunity to host the database, converted it to MySQL, and wrote a few simple query forms for the database in PHP. Hayes also provided some basic documentation on how to use the forms since MySQL query syntax is probably not familiar to most people on the A&A list.

While I'm glad to see that this database has been made available, it seems a little strange to me that this appears to be pretty insignificant for NARA. While I don't expect that they'll be posting links to Hayes & Lapsley's query forms, I have yet to find any reference to this database in any form (downloadable or not) on I'd think any sort of mention would bode well for NARA, so it's a bit puzzling to have it be so overlooked. Maybe we can do more with the data. My first thought was to throw something together and then maybe sacrifice a goat to the fine folks at ibiblio (where ArchivesBlogs is hosted) in exchange for making the database available at a reliable site that works in the public interest. I then wised up and realized that I don't currently have the time to do that alone. If someone's interested, though, I know where you can get goats wholesale.

The files in question:


1 Comment

  • 💬 ArchivesNext at June 8, 2007, 22:18 UTC:

    Hi Mark,

    I know this is a little late, but just fyi after reading this post I wrote to someone I know back at NARA who would be a in position to know about this and to make a public comment about it. Never got a reply. But, hey, I tried.