State, NARA complete first transfer of electronic records

The State Department and the National Archives and Records Administration today completed the first electronic transfer of diplomatic records.

When secretary of State Colin Powell handed a stack of CD-ROMs to national archivist John Carlin at ceremony at State headquarters, it marked the transformation from a total paper process dating back to World War II to one that uses modern technology.

“The State Department is applying advanced technology to declassify historical information more quickly and make it more easily available,” Powell said. “Thomas Jefferson and our other founding fathers understood that there needs to be the freest possible flow of information to the citizens, and there had to be accountable systems in government.”

State and NARA also signed an agreement to work cooperatively on standardizing the format for data transfer to the archives.

Powell said the agreement could become a model for the rest of government.

The first set of records consists of diplomatic correspondence from July 1973 to December 1974, which includes about 700,000 documents.

“The State Department records are the second most heavily used category of records after genealogical resources,” Carlin said. “This is the first major body of electronic textual records the National Archives has ever accepted.”

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