Note: See Transmittal Letter to President-elect Obama’s Transition Team

A New Archivist of the United States: Qualities of a Successful Candidate

December 19, 2008

A nominee for the office of Archivist of the United States will be selected following the legal obligations and responsibilities under the National Archives and Records Administration Act of 1984 (Public Law 98-497). In addition to these requirements, the Society of American Archivists, the Council of State Archivists, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, the Academy of Certified Archivists, ARMA International, the National Coalition for History, and the undersigned believe that the following personal and professional qualities are important in order for a nominee to be successful in this essential position of public trust:


  • Ability to present a compelling vision for the mission and work of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and, more broadly, for the archives and records management professions in the United States.
  • Ability to envision NARA’s stewardship role in preserving America’s historical and cultural heritage.
  • Ability to envision a leading role for NARA in ensuring that our government’s record-keeping processes provide for accountability, transparency, and openness.


  • Commitment to the principle of public ownership of government records.
  • Commitment to open and equal access to government records by all citizens, as defined by law and custom.
  • Commitment to expediting the declassification of historical records and documents.
  • Commitment to protecting the public’s right to privacy, as defined by law and custom.
  • Commitment to protecting NARA’s professional integrity and political non-partisanship.
  • Commitment to furthering NARA’s leadership in the advancement of electronic records management.
  • Commitment to the ongoing mission of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
  • Commitment to working creatively with other federal offices, with state and local governments, and with other archival programs, including those in foreign countries, to identify and address shared responsibilities and concerns.
  • Commitment to ensuring diversity among the individuals who serve in NARA and the archives and records management professions, as well as in the documentation of America’s multi-cultural society.


  • Experience and excellence in leadership, program advocacy, and management of a complex organization.
  • Ability to listen, communicate effectively, and partner with a wide range of stakeholders, including archivists, historians, journalists, political scientists, and the general public.
  • Understanding of critical issues confronting government records and the archives profession generally, particularly the challenges of new information technologies, and the competing demands of access to government records, privacy, and national security.
  • Ability to provide leadership and advocacy on behalf of NARA’s roles to the public, government officials, and NARA staff, and on behalf of the archives, records management, and historical communities.

Endorsed by:

Society of American Archivists
Council of State Archivists
National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators
Academy of Certified Archivists
ARMA International
National Coalition for History
American Association for State and Local History
Association for Documentary Editing
Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
National Council for History Education
National Council on Public History