This is a follow-up report to several recent newsletter articles concerning efforts to petition the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The petition asks NARA to reconsider a proposal to reduce the hours that the agency's research rooms are open to the public. If you are not familiar with the proposal and the genealogists' response, you can find details at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2006/09/only_a_few_hour.html and at the other articles referenced there.
As we approached the Friday deadline for filing comments, the petition had collected more than ten thousand signatures in only six days. I am very proud of the genealogy community for supporting this effort on very short notice. It is gratifying to see this level of mobilization and response.
Very late Thursday evening, I file transferred the petition with all 10,000+ signatures to a Kinko's office near Washington, D.C. (I am about 400 miles away.) Kinko's printed the petition with all its signatures in the wee hours of Friday morning, filling more than 550 pages!
Shortly after the start of the business day and just hours before the filing deadline, Marie and Bob Melchiori retrieved the petition from Kinko's and drove to the National Archives. They delivered the petition, with all 10,000+ signatures attached, in person.
The NARA employee who is charged with receiving and recording incoming requests, comments, and petitions apparently was impressed. I don't know the exact words used, but that employee asked if it would be possible to obtain another copy of the petition in electronic format. I can't say that I blame her since she is charged with recording all the incoming requests, comments, and petitions. She probably does not want to manually transcribe 10,000+ signatures and comments! (The original "Request For Comments" had specified comments on paper, but I doubt if they expected 10,000+ responses.)
I have since sent the full petition in electronic format to that NARA employee.
Obviously, it is too early to assess the impact of this petition. We probably won't know the outcome for several months. However, I think all the genealogists who flew into action should pat themselves on the back for gathering more than 10,000 signatures in only six days. Special thanks go to Marie Melchiori, Bob Melchiori, and David Rencher, who were instrumental in this effort. I know there were a number of others who were involved in organizing this effort and/or in spreading the word in newsgroups and message boards. I don't have all the names of those who helped, but I do know that all U.S. genealogists owe a big "thank you" to the people involved. Thanks to the efforts of many, the voices of genealogists are now being heard in Washington, D.C. I hope to write about the success of this effort within a few months.
I wonder if this is the largest number of signatures ever collected on a genealogy-related petition. Does anyone know of a larger effort in the past?