“Answering the Call”: Digitizing the Archives of the National Education Association

Material Description

The archives of the National Education Association (NEA) comprise over 2,200 linear feet of records documenting the history of the largest labor union in the U.S., as well as the evolution of national policy for public schools and the professionalization of teachers, school administrators, and other education-related labor areas. Dating from 1857 to the present, with bulk dates of 1920 - 2000, the collection consists of a vast array of publications of the NEA, its affiliates and predecessors, as well as rich manuscript materials, photographs, and audiovisual recordings. The research reports, policy papers, newsletters, magazines, conference proceedings, and other print materials provide unprecedented documentation of the development of American education policy, including such topics as segregation, school choice, education of immigrants, and the role of public and private education in civic society. This collection has been identified as having particularly high impact for both academic and public discourses, and as having high value-added potential for digitization due to being fully processed and having a large body of print materials ready for text extraction and data mining. Due to the collection’s vast size, a core of serial publications and collection series have been pre-selected for digitization, to be supplemented by additional nominations made by an Advisory Group representing user communities from diverse fields of study. This approach assures that a critical mass of material will be selected to document NEA’s activities and research, as well as inviting a wide base of expertise to surface formerly hidden topics in the material.


The George Washington University Libraries proposes an 18-month project to digitize high-priority series from the National Education Association Archives, a 2,200 linear foot collection dating from 1857 to present. As the largest labor union in the country and a major advocacy organization, the NEA has been involved in virtually every social and political issue influencing American education policy. The collection includes materials on desegregation, school choice, funding of public education, rural and urban schools, and teaching as a gendered profession. We propose a tiered digitization project that invites an Advisory Group of scholars in diverse subject areas to help prioritize a critical mass for digitization that has high research potential in areas of study that remain “hidden” in the collection. We will actively promote broad, inclusive access to digitized content by bringing material to the people across multiple access platforms and supporting new modes of computational access and re-use.


Digitizing Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded


Year Added



The George Washington University


  • Ms. Rachel Trent (GW Libraries)

Date Range

1857 - 2014

Geographic Scope

The NEA is a national membership organization representing all 50 states. Its Research Division produced influential reports comparing and analysing nationwide statistics on levels of education, income, voting, literacy, immigration and citizenship, ethnicity and other topics relevant to education policy.


  • 962 Books