Archive for the ‘NARA Records’ Category

Aiding in the Search for The White Bird

Written on: June 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

When Charles Lindbergh landed at LeBourget Field outside of Paris on the 21st of May 1927, among his first words- “Is there any news of Nungesser and Coli?” On the 8th of May, French aviators Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli took off from LeBourget in their plane, The White Bird, in an attempt to be first to fly nonstop from Paris to New York. French researcher, Bernard Decre, using the records of the National Archives, aims to tell the story of what happened to The White Bird.

Bernard Decre with plane model at French Embassy

Researcher Bernard Decre and National Archives staff member Mark Mollan at the French Embassy next to an exact model of the plane flown by the French aviators. Photo taken by Trevor Plante.

 

In May of 1919, French Hotelier Raymond Orteig offered a $25,000 Orteig Prize to the first aviator to fly across the Atlantic non-stop between New York and Paris- in either direction.  Many aviators made unsuccessful attempts to capture the prize, but it was Charles Lindbergh flying The Spirit of St. Louis who won.

The French Government maintains that The White Bird went down in the English Channel and Mr. Decre has been working with Mark Mollan, our expert on U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard records to prove that it made it across the Atlantic. Between May and August of 1927, using the logbooks of … [ Read all ]

Round Two of US-Canadian Rivalry

Written on: May 20, 2013 | 3 Comments

On the 15th of June in 1859, Lyman Cutlar, an American recently settled on San Juan Island, shot a pig which ” … having been at several times a great annoyance and that morning destroyed a portion of his garden … ”

Cutlar affidavit Page 1

Affidavit of Lyman A. Cutlar Regarding Pig Shooting, September 7, 1859

(click on image to view the complete 5-page document in our Flickr photostream)

The pig belonged to the British Hudson Bay Company who demanded compensation in the amount of $100. The astonished Cutlar valued the pig at less than $10. While not the shot heard round the world, it did mark the beginning of the Pig War-a border dispute between the United States and Canada. While that was the only shot fired, twelve years of posturing on both sides which included troops and navies and some soon to be famous Civil War principals, George E. Pickett and Winfield Scott.  The Treaty of Washington between the United States and Great Britain was signed in 1871 and the San Juan Island matter referred to Kaiser Wilhelm I of German for arbitration and in October of 1872 ruled in favor of the United States.

An early commemoration of the anniversary of The Pig War was the excuse for the staff of the National Archives in Washington and our friends across the street at the Canadian Embassy to once again test public opinion-this time on bacon. Last … [ Read all ]

The Spirit of Boston

Written on: April 18, 2013 | 7 Comments

On Monday, April 15, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum suffered a fire. It was quickly managed and extinguished by first responders from the Boston Fire Department and the Boston Police Department. My sincere thanks go to them for their extraordinary efforts. I am grateful that no one was injured.

This fire occurred around the same time as the awful attack in Copley Plaza during the Boston Marathon. Our hearts go out to the victims of that terrible, terrible event. I have close ties to Boston. I have run that marathon with those people in the past and have had friends and relatives cheering for me at that finish line.  I found this incident to be particularly sad and troubling.

The Boston Police Department is investigating the cause of the fire and initial indications are that it was not connected to the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  Please remember the people affected by the tragedy in Boston on Monday, and wish for their resilience and for their healing.

Today, the work of the American people continues in Boston, and my heartfelt congratulations go out to the people who have been working hard to develop the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which is launching online today.  Unfortunately, Monday’s tragedy occurred at the very steps of where the official gala launch was planned to be held, the Boston Public Library. The gala has … [ Read all ]

Rapturous Research

Written on: March 19, 2013 | 13 Comments

In a recent op-ed piece by Sean Pidgeon, he defines research rapture:

“A state of enthusiasm or exaltation arising from the exhaustive study of a topic or period of history; the delightful but dangerous condition of becoming repeatedly sidetracked in following intriguing threads of information, or constantly searching for one more elusive fact.”

Pidgeon’s column triggered many rapture memories from my days as a research librarian. The opportunity and challenge of engaging in the research of faculty and students over the years has been one of the joys of my professional life. Some of my favorites: the archaeologist tracing the history of turpentine from the Middle East to Europe by analysis of Renaissance painting paint fragments; an Abigail Adams quote from a letter to her husband inscribed on the fireplace mantle in the East Room of the White House; details of Pablo Neruda’s life; details of a Congolese form of voodoo practices in Cuba; and, who said “We are surrounded by insurmountable opportunities,” Yogi Berra or Pogo?

In each case, except the last, the search for an answer resulted in lots of sidetracks and lots of new related information—some for the researcher, but all for me!

Central Research Room at National Archives Building in Washington DC
Central Research Room, April 5, 1938. Records of the National Archives (RG 64). The Central Research Room is located on the 2nd floor of the National Archives
[ Read all ]

Deck Logs

Written on: January 18, 2013 | 6 Comments

As a Navy veteran I have a particular fondness for U.S. Navy records, especially deck logs. From my first days here at the National Archives when I discovered that we had the actual deck logs from the US S Constitution including her service during the War of 1812 to the day I was handed a deck log of the USS Sanctuary, AH-17 , covering my time aboard that hospital ship in Viet Nam I have been hooked on this record series!

So, it was a real treat to learn that NOAA had approached us in April of 2011 with the idea of digitally imaging the logs of Navy and Coast Guard Revenue Cutter vessels as part of their work with OldWeather.org to document weather conditions in the North Pacific Arctic region during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In a wonderful crowd sourcing venture, volunteers working with OldWeather.org transcribe handwritten weather observations as well as log entries on vessel movement and activities. It is a win-win cross agency collaboration—NOAA gets the weather data and NARA gets the digital images for posting.

Scanning began in July 2012 and so far the logbooks of ten vessels have been completed and 65,000 images posted to our Archival Research Catalog.

Pressed flowers were found in the USRC Corwin log entry for 14 January 1891 from Port Townsend, … [ Read all ]

Young George Patton, The Sailor

Written on: December 14, 2012 | 3 Comments

Growing up in Beverly, Massachusetts I was familiar with the legend of young George Patton rescuing three people whose sailboat had overturned off Beverly Cove.  Last week we had a visit from a group of Coast Guard personnel and among the records selected to show them was the file documenting the incident.  Imagine my surprise and delight to read the actual evidence.  It actually did happen!

The records tell the story from both sides—the rescuers and the rescued.

George Patton Life-saving Medal file, ARC ID 568559, RG 26, USCG General Correspondence, 1910-35, File Code 181, Box 286, Patton, George S.

 

Beatrice Ayer Patton writes that on August 21, 1923, she and her husband, Major George Patton, were sailing just off the coast in “an seaworthy 14 foot skiff” when the weather became squally.  “Our boat began to leak badly and become almost unmanageable.”  Heading for shore, they “…heard a shout… The water was covered with white foam and black squally patches, making it difficult to distinguish any object.  At last we saw three boys, apparently standing up to their armpits in the sea…As we approached the boys, they sank to their chins..One of them called to us that his two companions could not swim.”

Patrick T. Jackson, Jr., age 16, one of the three rescued writes that they had been in the water for … [ Read all ]

Transforming Classification

Written on: December 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) at the National Archives has been hard at work this year developing recommendations to the President of the United States to transform the national security classification system. PIDB is an advisory committee established by Congress to advise and provide recommendations to the President and other executive branch officials on the identification, collection, review for declassification, and release of declassified records of archival value.  In addition, PIDB advises the President on policies regarding classification and declassification of national security information.

Through their “Transforming Classification” blog, they have solicited hundreds of public comments and ideas on ways to reduce inefficiency and increase public access to improve our classification and declassification system.

The work of the PIDB embodies the principles of open government, transparency and participation, and I encourage you to provide your feedback on their blog as they continue to tackle the challenge of improving the national security classification system, especially as it relates to digital records.

Transforming the Security Classification System cover image

On Thursday, December 6th, the Public Interest Declassification Board will host an open meeting to discuss its recommendations to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System. The full Report to the President will be published online on December 6th . The meeting will focus on the Board’s fourteen recommendations, centering on the need for new policies for classifying information, new processes for declassifying information, … [ Read all ]

We Salute You

Written on: November 8, 2012 | 1 Comment

Veterans Day has special meaning for us at the National Archives where we hold the almost 112 million individual personnel files and medical records of the men and women who have served in the military. Housed in St. Louis, Missouri and Valmeyer, Illinois, more than 800 staff process, protect, and service those records to ensure that veterans and their families can receive the benefits due to them, can document family histories, and can received replacement medals and awards. More than 5,000 requests are received each day and I am so proud of the dedication the staff brings to their work, often going the extra mile to ensure that our veterans get what they need.

Photograph of San Francisco Yeomen attached to the Naval Reserve, June 1918. National Archives Identifier: 533764

 

Another more than 10 million military service records and pension files from earlier wars—American Revolution through the Philippine-American War—are serviced in Washington, DC.

Each one of those records, as is the case with each record in our custody, tells a story. Two of thousands of stories:

A veteran’s family wrote hoping to confirm a story regarding a real “Great Escape” during World War II. Staff discovered that the veteran had been captured by the Germans in 1944 and sent to a labor camp in Poland. He escaped by tunneling under the wire fence, disguised … [ Read all ]

Staying Ahead of Sandy

Written on: October 31, 2012 | 3 Comments

I hope that you and your families are well and safe after Sandy’s visit to the Northeast.

The National Archives buildings were largely spared, thanks to extensive preparation based on “lessons learned” from similar weather events.  I am grateful to all of our staff and especially to our facilities and emergency staff for their ongoing work in keeping personnel and records safe. None of our records were damaged as a result of Hurricane Sandy, thanks to our staffs’ careful preparation.

At Archives I, in Washington D.C., our facilities staff took several precautionary steps prior to Hurricane Sandy’s arrival, including pumping down sump pits and pre-deploying the flood gates at the A1 moat openings.  Additional measures implemented after the 2006 flooding including the installation of coffer dams and watertight doors, successfully limited water leakage to a minimal amount.  The generator fuel tanks were filled and ready in case power was lost.

 

East Flood Wall (7th Street), Archives I Building, Washington DC:

East Flood Wall

 

West Flood Wall (9th Street) Exterior, Archives I Building, Washington DC:

West Flood Wall Exterior

(Photo credit: Timothy Edwards, National Archives Facility Manager)

At Archives II, our facility at College Park, MD, advance preparations included pumping down the rain water storage tank and securing the exterior of the building, as well as filling the generator fuel tanks in case power was lost. Power service remained throughout. There … [ Read all ]

Celebrating Our Volunteers

Written on: October 12, 2012 | 1 Comment

This week we had an opportunity to honor volunteers who contributed more than 100 hours of their time to the National Archives this year in our Washington and College Park locations—295 volunteers who contributed 42,284 hours! These amazing numbers demonstrate their love of history and the work that we do.

A parade of staff supervisors took the stage to brag about the work of their volunteers who wrote hundreds of item-level descriptions, created thousands of photo captions, scanned tens of thousands of files, indexed tens of thousands of records, inventoried rows of stacks, answered researchers’ questions, improved access to our online holding, and even used social media to broadcast information about our records. Some wrote articles for our Prologue magazine as well as blog posts about the records and some presented lectures to the public.

The work of our volunteers leads to a better understanding of our records and better service to our users. In particular, this year volunteers shed light on the records of Fort Monroe, the Army Signal Corps color photographs from Vietnam, the military service of Marine dogs in World War II, the role of Clara Barton and the Missing Soldiers Office during the Civil War, the Brooklyn Navy Yard glass plate negatives, the preservation status of our diplomatic cables from the 1930s to the 60s, and the relationship between the FBI … [ Read all ]