Author Archive

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 ]

Public Service Recognition Week and the Archivist’s Awards

Written on: May 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

Despite the challenges of the past year–sequestration, the government shutdown, and other obstacles we have had to face– the staff of the National Archives has consistently risen to the occasion and has done some extraordinary work.

Archivist Award Ceremony 2014
Staff receive awards at the 2014 Archivist’s Awards Ceremony at the National Archives in College Park

 

For me, every week is Public Service Recognition Week and I have come to look forward to the Archivist’s Awards day when we celebrate our staff’s accomplishments.  All of our staff members are winners based on feedback supplied by our customers–the day-to-day work that doesn’t always get heralded. Here are some of the terrific things customers have to say about the staff of the National Archives:

  • An IRS agent was “taken aback by the professionalism and personal attention she received” at San Bruno. And another IRS person praised the FRC staff in Boston, Pittsfield, Seattle, and Lee’s Summit who “really went the extra mile to locate some very old Form 1120s––corporate tax returns.”
  • A  Department of Commerce records officer wrote: “Thank you again for coming and providing ERA training. You did fantastic, and the feedback was very good…. You are welcome to come back any time.”
  • At the National Personnel Records Center, a daughter searching for the military records of her late father wrote that “it is apparent you did a great deal
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Patent of the Month: Tucker “Torpedo” Patent Drawing, 06/14/1949

Written on: May 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

During World War II, the South Side of Chicago was home to one of the largest war plants in the country, used by Dodge-Chrysler to build bomber plane engines. After the war, Preston Tucker leased two of the buildings to build his “Torpedo” car. This site is now the home of the National Archives at Chicago! Our National Archives Education team shares the full story on their Facebook page.

Here are the patent drawings for Tucker’s “Torpedo” car:

Tucker Torpedo

Tucker Torpedo

Tucker Torpedo Patent Drawing, 6/14/1949, National Archives Identifier 594674[ Read all ]

Making Access Happen by Expanding Broadband

Written on: May 1, 2014 | 1 Comment

I recently attended the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ public hearing on broadband access, hosted at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC. I was joined by colleagues from Federal agencies, universities, museums and libraries to examine the need for high speed broadband access in America’s libraries, and how this access is essential in meeting the educational, cultural, and information needs of all citizens.

As the leader of an agency dedicated to providing access to the permanent records of the federal government, I support this initiative to increase broadband access. Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, spoke eloquently of his own experience in using archival records and the value of electronic access to those records.  Broadband access is the crucial piece in this equation; we need to ensure that our holdings and content can reach the eyes of many more people in order to truly make access happen.

Watch the full recording of the IMLS Public Hearing: “Libraries and Broadband: Urgency and Impact”: 

[ Read all ]