Archive for the ‘NARA Records’ Category
Last week I had an opportunity to address the Preservation Section meeting of the Society of American Archivists. The theme of the meeting was holdings protection—balancing access to holdings with safeguarding them. And two of our Holdings Protection staff, Larry Evangelista and Richard Dine participated in a panel discussion reporting on what we have accomplished to date in this area. My remarks at the meeting were an opportunity for me to reflect on my many years of worry on this topic:
We’ve come a long way from the time when books were chained to shelves but I often wonder if maybe that wasn’t such a terrible way to provide collection security! Daily we all deal with the tension between protection and access.
Chained books in the Hereford Cathedral Chained Library
I have spent my entire career worrying about and dealing with collection security issues. As a shelver in the Humanities Library at MIT, my morning duties included clearing the reading room tables and reshelving. There I discovered the journals with articles ripped out, books in the Women’s Studies section which had been mutilated, the era of Winslow Homer woodcut engravings sliced from Harper’s Weekly. The Sex Collection was kept in a locked cage in the
… [ Read all ]
On June 15th we launched our tagging feature on the Online Public Access (OPA) prototype in another “citizen archivist” venture. Convinced that our users know a lot about the records we are stewarding, this is an opportunity to contribute that knowledge. As you search the catalog, you are invited to tag any archival description, person, or organization name records with the keywords or labels that are meaningful to you. We expect that crowdsourcing tagging will enhance the quality of the content and make it easier for people to find what they are looking for. A description of this new feature can be found on the NARAtions blog, along with a link to the registration page.
In the first month we have had more than 1,000 tags contributed!
Our online contributor “islandlibrarian” recognized Nantucket Island in the description of the series that includes the following document:
User “zarr” added Four Freedoms to this image:
User “sschlang” knows Wisconsin and added Manitowoc, Wisconsin to this image:
Join the crowd and add your tags!
Last Thursday, a Federal grand jury indicted Barry Landau and Jason Savedoff “…for conspiring to steal historical documents from museums in Maryland and New York, and selling them for profit.” On Friday they were arraigned in Baltimore’s U.S. District Court and immediately arrested by FBI and NARA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Special Agents.
The indictment spells out the manner, means, and purpose of Landau and Savedoff’s conspiracy to “…steal and obtain by fraud from the care, custody, and control of various museums certain objects of cultural heritage…” Among those “objects” are seven reading copies of speeches given by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stolen from our FDR Library in Hyde Park, New York. Four of these speeches were later sold.
Other institutions identified in the indictment include the New York Historical Society and the Maryland Historical Society.
Our OIG is working closely with the law enforcement agencies involved in the ongoing investigation and NARA staff from various units have stepped up to assist this work.
I am extremely proud of the staff—their professionalism, cooperative spirit, and seriousness with which they are taking this assignment.
Any time the collections entrusted to my care are stolen I feel personally violated. Throughout my career I have fought hard to create and support the appropriate protective measures that ensure that those great special collections… [ Read all ]
A career-long fascination and appreciation of the work of those involved in conservation and preservation can be traced to my very first job in the MIT Humanities Library. There I learned about the special needs of vellum and leather bindings, the temperature and humidity requirements of paper, and the principle of never doing anything which cannot be undone. So it is with some special interest and pride that I brag about the effort that our conservation staff consistently puts forth on often difficult and delicate conservation tasks. Their recent work on the Magna Carta is a great example of what they can do.
In a project funded by the document’s owner, David Rubenstein, the staff provided weeks of intensive treatment to the parchment and seal and eventually revealed previously illegible writing to the Magna Carta using ultra-violet photography.
The Rubenstein Magna Carta, before treatment, in an ultraviolet fluorescence photo of the parchment. Ultraviolet reveals obliterated text in damaged areas. Click on the image to see the full document and the damaged area in the bottom right side. (Photo by Sarah Raithel.)
The treatment completes the first phase of a project to re-encase and display the document publicly. This copy of the Magna Carta, written in 1297, will eventually become part of a new permanent exhibit at the National Archives, documenting… [ Read all ]
The coincidence of reading James E. Valle’s Rocks and Shoals: Order and Discipline in the Old Navy, 1800-1861 and the opening of the America Eats Tavern which is serving grog for the first time is the inspiration for this post. Rocks and Shoals documents punishments in the form of flogging meted out for such infractions as drunkenness, fighting, disobedience, skulking, theft, sleeping on watch, etc. These charges and punishments are well documented in quarterly reports housed at the National Archives.
Quarterly Report of Persons Punished on board the U.S. Frigate United States, November 18, 1847-February 18, 1848
Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration
Of particular interest to me was “doubling the grog tub” which resulted in 12 lashes! Grog comes to us from the Royal Navy, introduced by British Vice Admiral Edward Vernon in 1740. Vernon’s nickname, “Old Grog,” came from the grogram cloth coat he wore. The drink was rum based, watered down with beer and/or water. Citrus juice was added to cut the bad taste of the water and, unknowingly, addressed the scurvy problem aboard ships at that time. The Continental Navy and then the U.S. Navy also served grog—twice a day—until September 1862 when the practice was discontinued. And that was many years before my tour of duty, alas! So…”doubling the grog tub”… [ Read all ]
As someone who likes to cook and collects cookbooks for inspiration, I am high on the latest exhibit to open here at the National Archives.
AOTUS welcomes the press at the “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit preview at the National Archives.
“What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” takes a look at the Government’s role in food, a story told from the records in our custody. It is a story at times funny, at times scary, and always informative. There are photos and recipes from the White House kitchens—President Johnson’s Pedernales River Chili, President Kennedy’s New England Fish Chowder, and even Queen Elizabeth II’s scone recipe, a favorite of President Eisenhower’s. It tells the story of Frank Meyer (the Meyer lemon Meyer!) who trekked throughout Asia in the early 1900s looking for plant specimens and seeds to bring to America. Did you know that the first Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Harvey Wiley, used a human “poison squad” to prove the harmful effects of chemical preservatives in food? And it includes the food pyramid over time—did you know that butter was once a food group?! What great timing—just last week the Department of Agriculture released the new food plate.
The exhibit opens today and for the next six months we will be doing an amazingly creative series of programs… [ Read all ]
This week I was in Kansas City visiting two of our three facilities in the area. The limestone caves at Lenexa hold both temporary and permanent records of Federal agencies in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska including the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, the growing collection of records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs is housed there. An amazingly creative use of naturally climate controlled space to protect the Nation’s history.
Among the many archival records at the Central Plains Region facility in downtown Kansas City are the inmate case files of the United States Penitentiary—Leavenworth. 68,937 files covering July 1895 when the prison opened through 1952 are now open for research and document some of the most notorious federal prisoners in history. The files include Robert Stroud–aka the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” George “Machine Gun” Kelly, boxer Jack Johnson, labor leader “Big Bill” Haywood, gambler Nicky Aronstein, and polar explorer Dr. Frederick Cook. And some not so notorious prisoners including Lizzie Cardish, a 15 year old convicted of arson in Wisconsin; Lothar Witzke a German spy convicted of the Black Tom Island explosion of 1916 in New York Harbor which damaged the Statue of Liberty; and Samuel Caldwell, who we believe was the first Leavenworth prisoner to be convicted of violating the Marijuana Tax Act… [ Read all ]
Iodite of potassium, sulphate of iron, nitrate of silver, rice starch, ferro cyanite of potassium, and even lemon juice. These are some of the ingredients necessary to reproduce the secret writing techniques described in the six documents declassified by the CIA last week as part of the work of the National Declassification Center (NDC). The Center was established within the National Archives at the direction of the President in late 2009 with the mandate to review more than 400 million pages of classified records by the end of December 2013.
The job is difficult and complex because a single document can contain classified information drawn from several agencies, and each one of these agencies may have its own standards for classifying and declassifying documents. The process has benefited from having representatives of the agencies at our facility in College Park, Maryland, so these referrals and decisions can be made quickly.
The review process has very much been driven by user demand. The prioritization of records to be reviewed was established after public meetings and online review by the user community. The results are posted on the NDC website.
So far the news is good. More than 84 million pages have passed the quality review process, the first step. Of the 14.5 million pages which have been fully reviewed, 91% were declassified and made available… [ Read all ]
On Sunday, I was honored to provide the keynote address for the Next Century Convocation at MIT, the institution which launched my career and shaped my worldview. I shared my thoughts on MIT’s striking founding vision and how pervasive its influence has been over the last 150 years, even in unexpected places.
MIT’s motto is “mens et manus”, Latin for “mind and hand.” It embodies the educational philosophy of William Barton Rogers and the founders of MIT. Their original proposal to create MIT, Objects and Plan of an Institute of Technology, addresses itself to “…manufacturers, merchants, mechanics, agriculturists, and other friends of enlightened industry in the Commonwealth.”
So where did William Barton Rogers get his inspiration?
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “A man is known by the books he reads…” Rogers was a geologist by training but a look at his personal library gives one a sense of the range of his knowledge, interests, and attitudes toward the approach to education outlined in the Objects and Plan.
In 1975, when the MIT Alumni Association was celebrating its Centennial, a colleague and I had the opportunity to prepare an exhibit based on our yearlong effort to identify and reassemble the founder’s original library. Working from a crude inventory in his own handwriting and with a lot of time at the shelves of all of the MIT… [ Read all ]
A test of a nation’s commitment to transparency and self-government comes in how it explains to succeeding generations the more difficult or controversial moments of the past.
Watergate is one such moment in our nation’s history — and a topic that is now more fully explored at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.
Last week, I attended the opening of the Watergate Gallery at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California. The new permanent exhibit chronicles the events beginning in June 1971, with the leak of the Pentagon Papers and the formation of a clandestine White House group known as the Plumbers, and ends with former President Richard Nixon’s public explanations of Watergate after he left office. The exhibit is designed to help visitors make sense of the web of personalities as well as the actions and intentions at the heart of the Watergate scandal.
A portion of the new Watergate Gallery at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
The Nixon Library arguably holds the fullest record of any Presidential administration in history with approximately 4,000 broadcast videos, 4,500 audio records, 30,000 gifts, 300,000 photographs, 2 million feet of film, 46 million pages of documents, and 3,700 hours of presidential conversations known as the “White House Tapes.”
The new exhibit on Watergate uses documents and records from Presidential,… [ Read all ]