Archive for the ‘NARA Records’ Category

Creating a 21st Century Museum for the Mind

Written on: December 8, 2014 | 1 Comment

In a recent Wall Street Journal piece on the digital Einstein Papers Project, Walter Isaacson, waxed poetical about the “tingling inspiration of seeing original documents.”  Every day I am lucky to witness that “tingling” in the Rotunda of the National Archives as visitors stand in line to be in the presence of the Charters of Freedom.  On the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 9,000 people stood in line for a weekend display of the original document.  Across the country in our many facilities, ordinary citizens get to examine original records in their family history journeys, researchers use originals to track down evidence, and our government is held accountable for its action by review of the records of decisions made or not made.

Isaacson is no Luddite!   He understands the value of digital access.  “…my brooding soon gave way to marveling about the benefits that will come when millions of curious people, with new technologies in hand, get to dive into the papers of historical figures.”  And he cites our Founders Online as an exemplar.  The ability to search across the papers of six Founders, including early access to unpublished letters, has already proven to be a great boon to historical research. Einstein

“Artwork: ‘Albert Einstein’ Artist: Elin Waite” National Archives Identifier 6343429

I, like Isaacson, “…hope that archives will remain inspiring … [ Read all ]

Military Pension Files: Frakturs

Written on: November 25, 2014 | 3 Comments

Did you know that military pension files may contain valuable details about family history? While military veterans who applied for benefits had to provide evidence of service, widows or heirs had to provide evidence of their relationship to soldiers. As a result, some military pension files in the National Archives contain very interesting, and sometimes surprising items.

For example, this beautiful Fraktur illustrating a family record was found within the file documenting the military service of Peter Hunt, who served during the American Revolutionary War.

Fraktur, Peter Hunt, Connecticut and New York
From the Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application File of Peter Hunt.
National Archives Identifier 300092

 

We know from his pension application that Peter Hunt was born on Sept 28, 1757, in Dover, Dutchess County, New York. He married Hannah Benson on September 15, 1779, in Dutchess County.

On October 8, 1832, Peter Hunt made an application for pension while a resident of Kortright, Delaware County, New York, and was issued pension in 1833. According to Peter’s declaration to obtain pension, he enlisted in the United States Army in 1776 as a private commanded by Captain Childs and served in his Company of Infantry. Soon after, he enlisted into a Company of Artillery commanded by Capt. Andrew Moody in a regiment of the New York Continental line.

Peter first enlisted as volunteer in the militia in 1775 … [ Read all ]

By the Numbers

Written on: October 24, 2014 | 6 Comments

The holdings of the National Archives are vast. With more than 12 billion pages of textual records alone, it is essential that we continue to explore and employ innovative strategies to provide effective access. By understanding how you currently access our records and better understanding your unique needs, we will be better positioned to ensure your success in using the country’s records.

Women from are getting into vocational schools to learn war work
Analyzing our work.
From Record Group 208: Records of the Office of War Information, 1926 – 1951. National Archives Identifier: 535579

 

Here’s what some of our data shows:

Physical Visits:

Number of visits to all NARA facilities in FY2014: 4,163,905; up from 4,112,813 in FY13

  • Number of visits to our exhibits in FY2014: 3,451,044; up from 3,204,642 in FY13
  • Number of researcher visits to all NARA facilities in FY2014: 104,366; down from 114,096 in FY13

Number of written requests answered by all NARA offices in FY2014: 1,065,513; down from 1,132,525 in FY13

  • Number of written requests (includes fax, letter, email) received by all NARA archival offices in FY2014: 114,577; down from 122,442 in FY13
  • Number of written requests received by the St. Louis Military Personnel Records Center in FY2014: 950,936; down from 1,010,083 in FY13

Website and Online Catalog:

  • Traffic to Archives.gov: We had 31,093,042 visits from 22,869,469 visitors who viewed 86,729,808 pages, up 6% from FY13
  • Percentage of online users
[ Read all ]

The Scan Plan: Our Strategy to Digitize the Vast Holdings of the National Archives

Written on: October 9, 2014 | 8 Comments

The National Archives’ Strategic Plan includes a simple, but audacious initiative: to digitize our analog records and make them available for online public access. We have over 12 billion pages of records, so yes, this is our moon shot.

To achieve this goal, we know we need to think in radically new ways about our processes, and we have started by creating a new digitization strategy.  From the time we published our 2008 digitization strategy through today, we have scanned over 230 million objects.  This is a huge number, but we have a long road ahead.  Our new strategy pushes us further.

Scanning technique demonstrated by Mattie Woodford
Scanning technique demonstrated by Mattie Woodford, Powell Group film scanner, taken April 1961. National Archives Identifier 7665735.

We know we cannot do all of this by ourselves. We will continue to collaborate and build on efforts with private and public organizations to digitize records, as well as branch out to citizen archivists, other federal agencies and institutions worldwide. We will develop clear processes and technologies to support a workflow from staff digitization efforts, as well as ensure that records arriving at NARA are accompanied by standardized metadata, and make them available online in a shorter period of time.

We will set measures and track progress for each of these approaches, because we believe we can make digital access happen and we … [ Read all ]

Happy Labor Day!

Written on: August 29, 2014 | 0 Comments

“A truly American sentiment recognizes the dignity of labor and the fact that honor lies in honest toil.” -Grover Cleveland

Public Law 53-95: An Act Making Labor Day a Legal Holiday, June 28, 1894
General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives and Records Administration

Labor Day Act[ Read all ]

Happy Birthday, Annie Oakley!

Written on: August 22, 2014 | 1 Comment

Letter to William McKinley offering to raise a troop of 50 lady sharpshooters to fight the Spanish American War.  They would provide their own rifles and ammunition.  Unfortunately, women were not allowed to serve at that point in our history.

Annie Oakley letter to William McKinley

Letter to President William McKinley from Annie Oakley. April 5, 1898. National Archives Identifier 300369[ Read all ]

Special Visitors

Written on: August 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

Tracy Bray contacted us recently and wondered if she could bring her father and family for a special visit to the National Archives in Washington.  It was a surprise for her father, Harry Edward Neal Jr.  The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have special meaning to all of us and especially to the Neal family.  Mr. Neal’s father, Harry Edward Neal, was the Secret Service Agent in charge of getting those precious parchments into protective custody at Fort Knox during World War II.

Photo of Harry Edward Neal

Photo of Harry Edward Neal

The Charters had not yet been transferred to the National Archives and were housed at the Library of Congress.  Other documents slated for this secret mission included The Gutenberg Bible, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural and Gettysburg Addresses, and the Lincoln Cathedral copy of the Magna Carta which had been on display at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City.

Agent Neal’s detailed report to Frank J. Wilson, Chief of the Secret Service, is fascinating.  An armored truck “under suitable guard” moved the material from the Library of Congress Annex to Union Station where a drawing room and adjoining compartments on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad train leaving at 6:30 p.m. on the 26th of December 1941.

A wonderful letter from then Librarian of Congress, Archibald MacLeish, captured the emotion of the moment in his letter … [ Read all ]

My Afternoon with Bacall

Written on: August 13, 2014 | 5 Comments

As the Director of the New York Public Libraries I once had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Lauren Bacall to pitch the NYPL Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center as the repository for her papers.  Accompanying Bob Taylor, then Chief of the Theatre Collection at LPA, we visited her at her home in The Dakota.  To this day, I am torn about which was more exciting—meeting Bacall or being in The Dakota!

Lauren Bacall and Harry Truman

Actress Lauren Bacall sits atop a piano while Vice President Harry S. Truman plays the piano at the National Press Club Canteen. They are at the canteen to entertain the servicemen. February 10, 1945.
Series: Photographs Relating to the Administration, Family, and Personal Life of Harry S. Truman, 1957-2004, NARA ID 198606.

Overlooking Central Park, we sat in her bookcase lined living room, discussing her career and family and her collection.  The bookcases were filled with leather bound volumes—one each for every play, movie, or performance of her life!  Each volume contained an annotated script, newspaper reviews, Playbill, etc.  Her collection was so well organized that it was an archivist/librarian’s dream!  Bob was eloquent in pitching LPA as the appropriate place for the collection given her attitudes about Los Angeles and how New York had become so important to her life.  I remember pitching the contribution to scholarship that the … [ Read all ]

The Hill Staff

Written on: August 1, 2014 | 0 Comments

Last night the Young Founder’s Society (YFS) hosted a reception in the Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office Building.  The YFS is a membership group for young professionals in the Washington, DC, area who are committed to the work of the Foundation for the National Archives to increase awareness of the cultural and historical value of the National Archives.

YFS invitation
Young Founder’s Society event invitation

While the event was part of the YFS’s membership drive, it was an opportunity for me to thank the attendees for their service to the nation and to single out the members of our oversight and appropriations committees for special thanks.  In my 14 hearing appearances to date (but, who’s counting?!) I have been impressed with the knowledge, expertise, and passion which these people bring to their job.

Many of the attendees have visited the National Archives with their Senator or Representative and to a person have left here inspired by the history they have relived through the original records.  To simulate that experience last night several dozen facsimiles were around the room—the 1868 treasury note for $7.2m with which purchased Alaska, the First Continental Congress’ Agreement of Secrecy signed in 1775 to protect the Founders, the bus diagram showing where Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks was seated on that fateful day, and my letter to President Eisenhower asking for … [ Read all ]

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 ]