|First of the three-page patent application #821,393, dated May 21, 1903, submitted by Orville and Wilbur Wright to the U.S. Patent Office for their Flying Machine. (AP Photo/National Archives and Records Administration)|
An AP wire story reported Tuesday that 80 percent of federal agencies are at risk of illegally destroying historical documents and the National Archives has an enormous backlog of materials in need of processing and preservation.
This isn't exactly a newsflash to those in the archival profession. And while the reportage on the GAO audit cast in is rather alarming, I think it's worth it if it provides some visibility to the issues facing the National Archives.
Because tucked away in that article is the figure the National Archives has each year for operating 44 facilities, including 13 presidential libraries: $470 million. And that very tiny number – especially when you consider the volume of material plus the new records being created every day – goes a long way in explaining some of those problems.
The GAO recommends the Archives boost its inspections of agencies, improve internal management, streamline hiring and enhance security.
I hope they also recommended an increased appropriation make this happen. It isn't like the archivists don't know what to do. Most of the time, they just don't have the resources to get it done.