With the opening of the “Discovery and Recovery” exhibit, I had a chance last week to thank many of the National Archives staff who made it possible. And it truly took a village to make this happen! Staff from just about every corner of the Agency contributed—preservation and conservation, security, legal, communications, exhibits, digital engagement, innovation, digital preservation, holdings protection, programs, and facilities. Truly a team effort.
Photo of the “Discovery and Recovery” exhibit in the Lawrence O’Brien Gallery. Photograph from the National Archives’ Instagram account: instagram.com/usnatarchives
In my remarks to the assembled staff I tried to convey my pride in their work, but also my pride in the passion and commitment they bring to the job every day. And I was reminded of the closing lines of Donna Tartt’s new novel, The Goldfinch, about the rescue of a painting:
“…if disaster and oblivion have followed this painting down through time—so too has love. Insofar as it is immortal (and it is) I have a small, bright, immutable part in that immortality. It exists; and it keeps on existing. And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along … [ Read all ]
Next week we will be opening an extraordinary exhibit, “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage,” at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The exhibit, spanning more than 400 years, tells the story of the dramatic recovery on May 6, 2003, of 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents from a flooded basement in the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Saddam Hussein’s secret police.
The discovery, named the Iraqi Jewish Archive, included some of the most sacred texts of the Jewish people, including an ancient Torah, Talmud and Zohar—along with tens of thousands of documents relating to the Jewish community in Iraq. Upon the discovery of the documents, we were immediately called in due to our Agency’s extensive expertise in protecting great cultural treasures such as these from decay and destruction.
Led by our Director of Preservation Programs, Doris A. Hamburg, and supported by the U.S. Department of State, the National Archives has for more than a decade taken painstaking efforts to preserve these texts and digitize them for universal public access. Their relentless dedication has ensured that these sacred texts will be kept alive and accessible. The result is a wonderful demonstration of the talent which exists here at the National Archives.
The exhibit, in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery, opens on November 7 and closes on January 5, … [ Read all ]
What happens when archives, libraries and museums come together? They build something amazing.
The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is here, and the National Archives is proud to participate as a leading content provider in this exciting online portal and platform.
The DPLA provides a single online access point for anyone, anywhere to search and access digital collections containing America’s cultural, historical and scientific heritage. Following the successful launch in April 2013, DPLA continues to grow, regularly bringing in new partners and content. For the latest news, check out DPLAfest 2013, happening right now in Boston!
This large-scale collaborative effort to create a universal digital public library has united leaders and educators from various government agencies, libraries, archives and museums. Together with several large content providers, such as the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian, and Harvard University, the National Archives is sharing content from our online catalog in the DPLA.
In fact, the National Archives has already contributed 1.9 million digital copies of historical material, including our nation’s founding documents, photos from the Documerica Photography Project of the 1970’s, World War II posters, Mathew Brady Civil War photographs, and a wide variety of documents that define our human and civil rights.
“WPA Library Bookmobile,” National Archives Identifier 195912
The National Archives’ participation in this exciting project marks a new opportunity to share our … [ Read all ]
The National Archives contains many archival gems. To share some of my favorites, I am starting a new feature for the blog, Patent of the Month.
Eye Protector for Chickens
Eye Protector for Chickens, Patent 730918, June 16, 1903. Records of the Patent and Trademark Office. National Archives and Records Administration (Page 2)
Eye Protector for Chickens, Patent 730918, June 16, 1903. Records of the Patent and Trademark Office. National Archives and Records Administration (Page 1)
Eye Protector for Chickens, Patent 730918, June 16, 1903. Records of the Patent and Trademark Office. National Archives and Records Administration (Page 3)… [ Read all ]
In May 2011, Dominic McDevitt-Parks joined the National Archives as our first Wikipedian-In-Residence. This put the National Archives at the forefront of many cultural institutions in partnering with the Wikimedia community.
Working for the National Archives as a part-time student intern, our Wikipedian led ground-breaking efforts for the agency. His automated-upload project provided 100,000 digital images of NARA’s records on the Wikimedia Commons for use in Wikipedia articles. He coordinated and hosted Wikimedia crowdsourcing projects that included digitization and transcription of records. He acted as a bridge between NARA and the Wikimedia community, bringing Wikipedians into the Archives, and ensuring that NARA staff attended and presented at the 2012 Wikimania Conference, as well as hosting local gatherings of Wikimedians at the National Archives.
The results? The top 4,000 Wikipedia articles that include NARA digital copies are on track to receive one billion views in 2013. That’s why it is important to work with the Wikimedia community, they share a common mission with the Archives, to provide world class access.
Dominic’s work with us at that time generated a great deal of buzz, including the following:
October is American Archives month, a time to raise awareness about the value of archives and archivists and to celebrate that work. One of the ways we are participating this year will be to discuss the work of the Archivist of the United States.
As a kickoff to American Archives Month, I invite you to join us on Google+ for an Ask the Archivist Hangout. I’ll be answering your questions on Tuesday, September 24, 2–2:30 pm, ET, from my office in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. And if you’re not able to watch it live, the hangout will be posted on YouTube so you can check it out later.
So, what will we talk about? That’s up to you! Send me your questions about what it means to be the Archivist of the United States by posting them in the comments to this blog post, tweet them with the #AskAOTUS hashtag, or post them on Google+ with the same hashtag. I’m ready to answer any questions you might have and I will even show you around my office. I’m eager to hang out with you on September 24!
Original Image: Photograph of Radio Broadcast for the March of Dimes with Margaret Truman and Others, 01/21/1948, National Archives Identifier 199642
Remember: The Hangout is on Tuesday, September 24, 2:00–2:30 pm, ET.
Post your questions … [ Read all ]
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 ]