The Office of the Historian of the State Department of the United States has recently updated their website to make it much more user friendly. For the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon-Ford administrations, one can now search through the documents of the Foreign Relations of the United States series either through a search box, a map, or a thematic interface. Previously scanned documents from prior administrations are in the process of being migrated to the new site and links to scans of the pre-1945 administrations held at other libraries are easily searched for on this site.
The FRUS project has long been a model of government publication of important documents and this new web interface will be one that is very welcome to students, teachers, and scholars. The documents available on this site, when combined with the other diplomatic documents made available through the National Security Archive, will provide a very useful intro into the main collections of the State Department held at the National Archives. In fact, one could design a very interesting assignment in research methods for students by having them examine which documents the Office of the Historian chose to publish on a particular issue — say the U-2 incident (State|NSA — and then compare those to the documents acquired by the NSA through Freedom of Information Act requests. Why would the government choose to publish some documents, but not others? Why would the NSA choose to publish some, but not others? It is through these sorts of questions that history students will gain a greater awareness of what makes a digital archive and what doesn’t.