Author Archive

Patent of the Month: Apparatus for Treating Air

Written on: July 18, 2014 | 2 Comments

Stay cool out there this summer!

Apparatus for Treating Air – Willis H. Carrier, 09/1904 – 01/02/1906.  National Archives Identifier 7268013

air treatment patent

air treatment patent

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The Elusive 600

Written on: July 15, 2014 | 2 Comments

I’m loving Joseph McCormack’s new book, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less.  The focus is on lean communication.  McCormack terms it Six Sigma for your mouth!  “In our attention deficit economy, being brief is what’s desperately needed and rarely delivered.”

People speak at about 150 words per minute, but we have the mental capacity to deal with 750 words per minute.  That leaves a space of 600 words where we drift—think other thoughts, take a mini-vacation, lose focus, etc.

soldier daydreams while coming home from a deployment.

Military Photographer of the Year Winner 1997. Title: Thoughts Elsewhere.
Major Kurt Tek daydreams while coming home from a deployment, 01/01/1997.
National Archives Identifier 6498091

McCormack’s tips for clear, concise, and compelling oral presentations are simple:  map it, tell it, talk it, and show it.  Outline your remarks—background, relevance, information to impart, conclusion, and follow-up anticipating expected questions.  Use narrative storytelling to deliver the message.  Use a controlled conversation rather than a monologue.  And use visuals to increase engagement.  Most importantly, stop talking and give people a chance to process.  “The mind is a processor, and if you keep hitting the send button, the effect can be maddening and futile.”

I was especially taken with his advice on avoiding TL/DR (too long, didn’t read) on email messages:

  • Make it Inviting—a strong subject line
  • Limit to One Screen
  • Embrace the White Space—instead of 8-10 sentence
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Happy Fourth of July!

Written on: July 3, 2014 | 3 Comments

238 years ago, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. And John Adams envisioned future celebrations of the event.  In a letter to his wife, he wrote:  “It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of Devotion to God Almighty.  It out to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward for ever more.”

Stilt-Walking Uncle Sam
A Stilt-Walking “Uncle Sam,” 06/1973. National Archives Identifier 549573

That vision of the future got off to a slow, but no less passionate start.  On July 5th 1777, John Adams wrote to his daughter from Philadelphia describing events of the first anniversary:  Invited to dine with President Washington aboard the frigate Delaware, Adams wrote:  “…we were saluted with a discharge of thirteen guns, which was followed by thirteen others, from each other armed vessel in the river; then the gallies followed the fire, and after them the guard boats.  The President and company were saluted with three cheers, from every ship, galley, and boat in the river.  The wharves and shores, were lined with a vast concourse of people, all shouting and huzzaing, in a manner which gave great joy to every friend to this country, and the utmost terror and dismay … [ Read all ]

The Allure of the Archives

Written on: June 30, 2014 | 6 Comments

Arlette Farge, Director of Research in Modern History at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, has written a wonderful little book about doing research in archives.

“Contact with the archives begins with simple tasks, one of which is handling the documents.  Combing through the archives—a beautifully evocative term—requires a host of tasks, and no matter how complex the planned intellectual investigation will be, they cannot be bypassed.  They are both familiar and simple, and they purify one’s thoughts, temper the spirit of sophistication, and sharpen one’s curiosity.  These tasks are performed without haste, and necessarily so.  One cannot overstate how slow work in the archives is, and how this slowness of hands and thought can be the source of creativity.  But more than inspirational, it is inescapable.  The consultation of these bundles, one after another, is never finished.  No matter how carefully you prepare beforehand, sampling documents and putting together research guides in an effort to limit the number of texts you will have to consult, your patience will inevitably be tested.”

Archivist reviewing documents

Archivist Matt Law reviews Chinese Exclusion Act Files.; Location: National Archives at Riverside, Perris, CA; Photographer: Joseph S. Peñaranda

 

“Reading patiently, in silence, you will regularly run up against various obstacles as your eyes travel across the manuscript pages.  Many documents have deteriorated physically, and torn corners or … [ Read all ]

Patent of the Month: Higgins boats

Written on: June 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion. To commemorate this anniversary, this month’s patent is Andrew Higgins’s landing boat. It is dated February 15, 1944, less than four months before D-Day.

LCVPs–or Higgins boats, as they are now commonly known –transported troops from the 1st Infantry onto Omaha Beach. They could each carry 36 combat-equipped infantrymen or 8,000 pounds of cargo. In all, 23,398 Higgins boats were produced during the war.

Higgins Boat Patent drawing

Higgins boat patent drawing page 2

 

From the holdings of the National Archives at Kansas City, “Lighter for Mechanized Equipment,” Patent Case Files, 1836-1993, NAID 302050[ Read all ]

One Year of Founders Online

Written on: June 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

This month we celebrate the one year anniversary of the launch of Founders Online – a tool for seamless searching across the papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. In the past year, the site has received over 400,000 visits.

An example of the power of the site shows in its great search results. When I searched for “Cotton,” “Beverly,” and “Washington,” the results returned the exact document I had in mind – a diary entry by George Washington written in 1789 remarking on his visit to the cotton manufactury in my home town of Beverly, Massachusetts.

Founders Online GW diary entry[ Read all ]

The Next Generation

Written on: June 3, 2014 | 3 Comments

Who says civics is dead?  Click on the video and watch these 5th graders in action!  And then read their petition.  Enough said!

 

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Innovate To Make Access Happen

Written on: May 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

Today we share our new Open Government Plan.

In the four years since we published our first plan, we have demonstrated our contribution to strengthening the principles of open government. We have implemented more than 90 actions to improve transparency, participation, and collaboration.

In our new plan we focus our efforts to engage the public in more than 160 external projects on more than 15 social media platforms, as well as through our public events, educational programs, Research Services, and Presidential Libraries.

At the same time we are working to improve internal communications and employee satisfaction, creating a cohort of managers and supervisors with a common ethos that supports the mission of the agency. And we have empowered Special Emphasis Program Managers across the agency to help create an environment that supports fair and open opportunities for all employees regardless of their differences.

Our Flagship Initiative, “Innovate to Make Access Happen,” describes our digitization, description, and online access efforts for the next two years. Check it out and track us as we develop a program to digitize our analog records, expand digitization partnerships, and update our digitization strategy.

In the next two years, I want the National Archives to become a leader in innovation and transform the way people think about archival collections! Join us in the journey.… [ Read all ]

Happy Memorial Day!

Written on: May 23, 2014 | 2 Comments

The photograph was taken at Soldier Field, Chicago, in July of 1967. The Navy’s Recruit Training Command at Great Lakes provided the manpower to create The Living Flag. In the upper right corner of the blue field, wearing a blue plastic bag over whitehat, stands recruit David S. Ferriero!

Remembering boot camp on this Memorial Day weekend.

Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, July 8, 1967
“Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, July 8, 1967: 10,000 sailors from the Great Lakes Naval Training Center form a living flag. Mayor Richard J. Daley and Rear Admiral William S. Guest, Commandant, Ninth Naval District, are the principal speakers at the event during which several classes of recruits graduated from the Training Center” . . .  428-N-1124035[ Read all ]

Sleepover at the National Archives

Written on: May 22, 2014 | 1 Comment

It gives me great joy to be able to share the treasures of the National Archives with kids and their families.

In January, we held the first-ever National Archives Sleepover in the Rotunda. It was a great way to create a meaningful experience for families, while giving us the opportunity to explain the important role of the Archives in preserving government records and making them accessible to the public.

The first sleepover drew families from around the country- many of whom had never visited the National Archives before! The response was so positive that we decided to invite more families during summer vacation and again in the fall.

Our next sleepover will be held on August 2.  It will feature an “Explorers Night” night theme, complete with hands-on activities to help young explorers investigate, – through music, chats with historical figures, games, and more – some of the greatest adventures of all time.

You might even see me flipping pancakes again!

Sleepover pancakes with AOTUS
Archivist of the United States David Ferriero (right) and author Brad Meltzer (center) serve breakfast at the first National Archives sleepover.

Registration is now open for the August 2 sleepover. For more information, please visit archivesfoundation.org/sleepover.… [ Read all ]