Robert D.W. Connor, the President of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and recently retired first Archivist of the United States, in his address to the Society at their annual meeting in 1942 read a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt who had been awarded an honorary membership in the organization. He called for “…the duplication of records by modern processes…”
Letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Robert Diggs Wembly Connor, 13 February 1942, Folder 668, Box 8 in the R. D. W. Connor Papers #2427, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
FDR acknowledged the magnitude of effort required: “This involves, of course, a vast amount of work because of the volume of federal, state and local archives of all kinds—but I think that a broad plan would meet with hearty public support if it could be properly publicized.”
Which brings to mind the language in our draft Strategic Plan, one of the objectives under our goal of Making Access Happen. In an effort to make an ever-increasing number of records available to the public we have promised to streamline processes, innovate, and collaborate with others to significantly increase the number of NARA records that are available to the public. In fact, we have been so bold as to suggest that we “Digitize all analog archival … [ Read all ]
Emery “Joe” Hollerer was my high school English teacher and on Friday night at the 50th Reunion of the Beverly (MA) Class of 1963 we all had a chance to thank him for the role he has played in shaping our lives.
Emery “Joe” Hollerer and David Ferriero
My own love of literature and reading was fostered under his tutelage. He expected us to read at least 50 pages a night and to this day if I miss my quota I feel the guilt!
Senior year this English class was responsible for the high school newspaper and many of us were on the literary magazine staff, so teaching writing was an important part of Mr. Hollerer’s portfolio. Our efforts were returned with a rubber-stamped grading guide he developed—SPLAGM—which was the topic of much conversation Friday night! Spelling, punctuation, logic, arrangement, grammar, and maturity. One of my classmates admitted to him that he had always had someone else write his first and last paragraphs and Mr. Hollerer always praised only the first and last paragraphs of his papers!
Public speaking rounded out the curriculum for this class. Getting up in front of our classmates was pretty traumatic but Mr. Hollerer, as he did in every class, made learning fun. I particularly remember the week we did “demonstration speeches”—explaining how to do something. A friend who … [ Read all ]
The National Archives has many fascinating records documenting our history. Some of the most fascinating are contained in our Pension Files documenting veterans’ claims, or claims from their families, for benefits starting with the Revolutionary War. For a wife or parent to qualify for benefits on behalf of the deceased soldier they needed to supply proof of the relationship with that soldier. The result is a collection of letters, diaries, frakturs, embroidered family trees, photographs, and more than 100 Bibles containing family information. These files are heavily used by genealogists in their research on family histories.
Last month, one of our own, Jeffrey Kees who works at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, brought his Dad, John, to visit their family Bible. Jeffrey’s Great-Great-Great-Grandfather, Philip Kees fought in the Revolutionary War, and the Bible, which contains family history noted in the margins of the text, was submitted by his widow as proof of her relationship with Kees.
Examining the Kees Family Bible. Left to Right: John Kees, Trevor Plante, and David Ferriero
Jeffrey’s Great-Great Grandfather, William Kees, served in the 155th Pennsylvania Infantry during the Civil War and we were able to display those pension records also.
The highlight of the visit was fulfilling Jeffrey’s wish to repeat his swearing in (the oath of office all Federal employees take when … [ Read all ]
The National Archives, in collaboration with the Government Printing Office, publishes the Federal Register, a daily compilation of notices of public meetings, legislative hearings, grant and funding opportunities, and announcements of public interest. In addition, it publishes proposed regulations and provides information about how to comment on these proposals—a very manual process. On its 75th anniversary on July 26th 2010, we launched Federal Register 2.0, affectionately known as FR2, exploiting social media tools to better connect the American public with their government. Highly graphic, clean and crisp, it is arranged in topical section to meet user demand and interest: money, environment, world, science and technology, business and industry, and health and public welfare.
Federal Register 2.0
The most important feature is the ability to immediately comment on proposed regulations. A prominent green “Submit a Comment” button next to the proposal launches a pop up comments page.
Proposed Rule on Federal Register 2.0 Website
Submit a comment on the proposed rule though Regulations.gov
Traffic on the site is up more than 36% over last year with 500k visits per month and more than 1m pages viewed each month. In the first three months of 2013, nearly 35k comments were submitted to Federal agencies about proposed regulations. There is no simpler means of participating in the rulemaking process in all of the Federal … [ Read all ]
This is the birthday of Waldo Gifford Leland, born this day in 1879 in Newton, Massachusetts. He was a historian with careers at the Carnegie Institution and the Library of Congress, and played an important role in the creation of the National Archives.
Leland’s portrait hangs among those of the previous Archivists of the United States. And I discovered him on a recent afternoon when I noticed that there were 10 portraits. Counted them twice. Thought maybe someone had made a mistake and I was number 11, not 10!
Portrait of Waldo Gifford Leland, 1879-1966. From RG 64, Records of the National Archives
The portrait was dedicated on October 24, 1957.
Leland was a student of J. Franklin Jameson at Brown and Jameson’s mentee. Leland took an early interest in archives, compiling the “Guide to the Archives of the Government of the United States in Washington” and searching across the United States for the correspondence of the Continental Congress delegates.
In 1907 he presented a paper to the Columbia Historical Society in Washington stressing the need for a national archives—the beginning of his campaign for preserving the records of the country. In 1909 he presented his paper, “American Archival Problems,” at the American Archivists Conference, which he helped organize. In 1912 he wrote “The National Archives: a Programme” which outlined the poor condition of … [ Read all ]
In 1776 when John Adams was envisioning future celebrations of the Declaration of Independence he said:
“It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought 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 forever more.”
While he didn’t mention the National Archives and our annual commemoration I am sure he would be pleased with how the home of the Declaration of Independence celebrates this day. Hundreds of people will be gathering on the Constitution Avenue steps of the National Archives to participate in a dramatic reading of this Charter of Freedom by Abigail and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Ned Hector, and George Washington. What better way to prepare for the Fourth of July parade in the Nation’s capitol?!
… [ Read all ]
On the last day of June of 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood at the entrance to his library in Hyde Park, New York—the first of the Presidential Libraries—and dedicated it to the American people with these words:
“It seems to me that the dedication of a library is in itself an act of faith.
To bring together the records of the past and to house them in a building where they will be preserved for the use of men and women in the future, a Nation must believe in three things.
It must believe in the past.
It must believe in the future.
It must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future.”
“…an act of faith.” These words are as true today as they were in 1941. In fact, just this past April, in dedicating our newest Presidential Library, George W. Bush quoted those words from President Roosevelt.
David Ferriero addresses the crowd at the FDR Library Rededication Ceremony on June 30, 2013
Yesterday at Hyde Park, we rededicated the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, the culmination of a multi-year renovation project and exhibit redesign. A Presidential Library is and must be a living entity. President Roosevelt, who created the … [ Read all ]
Yesterday the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences released their report—The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive, and Secure Nation. The report is the response to a bipartisan request from members of Congress: “What are the top actions that Congress, state governments, universities, foundations, educators, individual benefactors, and others should take now to maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship and education, and to achieve long-term national goals for our intellectual and economic well-being; for a stronger, more vibrant civil society; and for the success of cultural diplomacy in the 21st century?”
The three goals and thirteen recommendations articulate an agenda which resonates with me.
Goal 1: Educate Americans in the knowledge, skills, and understanding they will need to thrive in a twenty-first-century democracy. The National Archives has, from its beginnings, had an educational mission and today, as civic literacy is at its lowest ebb, that mandate is ever more important. The creation of and access to online resources and teaching materials provide the tools for “citizens to participate meaningfully in the democratic process” articulated in one of the recommendations.
Goal 2: Foster a society that is innovative, competitive, and strong. Supporting innovative research and discovery through our National Historical Publications and Research Commission grants … [ Read all ]
Just before Memorial Day, Eva Wall, a third grader at the Fiske School in Wellesley, Massachusetts wrote to tell me that her class was working on a Flat Stanley project. If you are not familiar with Jeff Brown’s 1964 children’s classic, illustrated by Tomi Ungerer, check it out. Eva sent me a hand colored flat Stanley and my assignment—write an illustrated short story about Stanley’s visit to Washington.
Stanley and I wandered up and down the Mall looking for photo ops. At the White House a friendly security guard reminded me that sticking things through the fence was not allowed—after Stanley had already posed on the other side!
He really wanted to climb the Washington Monument but the restoration work forced him to settle for a view from a nearby tree limb.
We stopped at the National Archives, of course, and dropped in on the Archivist of the United States.
But the real excitement came on Memorial Day when Stanley got to ride on a float in the parade down Constitution Avenue.
And who should he meet along the route? George Washington, himself!
And last week Eva got to share Stanley’s adventures with her classmates. I heard that Stanley’s picture with George Washington is hanging on the bulletin board! Thanks, Eva!… [ Read all ]
This afternoon, the National Archives launched Founders Online—a tool for seamless searching across the Papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton. Our National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) has been funding these projects in paper for some time. Working with Rotunda at the University of Virginia Press and the editors of the six papers project, Founders Online was created with NHPRC funding to provide simultaneous searching across all six collections at once.
Through Founders Online you can now trace the shaping of the nation, the extraordinary clash of ideas, the debates and discussions carried out through drafts and final versions of public documents as well as the evolving thoughts and principles shared in personal correspondence, diaries, and journals. This beta version of Founders Online contains over 119,000 documents, and new documents will be added to the site on a continual basis.
You can see first-hand the close working partnership between George Washington and Alexander Hamilton from their time in the Revolutionary War to Hamilton’s draft of Washington’s Farewell Address. Or read John Adams’ description of Congress as a place where “There is so much Wit, Sense, Learning, Acuteness, Subtilty, Eloquence, etc. among fifty Gentlemen, each of whom has been habituated to lead and guide in his own Province, that an immensity of Time, is … [ Read all ]