Archive for the ‘Special Events’ Category

Bonfires and Illuminations

Written on: July 3, 2012 | 3 Comments

On the second of July in 1776 John Adams wrote from Philadelphia to his wife Abigail his predictions on how the signing of the Declaration of Independence would be commemorated:

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought 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 forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even although We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

I am fortunate to be daily “transported with Enthusiasm” because I get to wander into the Rotunda and observe the thousands of people who come to see the original Declaration of Independence. Even in its faded state after 236 … [ Read all ]

Beer, Doughnuts, and the War of 1812

Written on: June 14, 2012 | 12 Comments

The Great Doughnut War of '12 Poster

Last week the staffs of the National Archives and the Canadian Embassy here in Washington gathered to commemorate the War of 1812 in a special way—The Great Doughnut War of ’12, pitting Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme against Tim Hortons. Three celebrity judges—two from the National Archives and one from the Canadian Embassy participated in a blind taste testing (below left).

Blind taste text and ballot box

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the attendees all had a chance to vote (ballot box, above right) as the doughnuts were served on separate unlabeled platters. Lest you think the two to one odds—doughnuts and judges—were unfair, let me point out that the event was held in MY HOUSE!

National Archives in black and white

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tension built during the day when we learned that the delivery of Tim Hortons to the Embassy resulted in potential disaster.

crushed doughnuts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Claiming SABOTAGE by the competition, the resourceful Embassy staff hoofed it to Baltimore for replacements.

We treated our Canadian friends to a display of facsimiles of records pertaining to the War of 1812 and beer!

And we ended the evening with a special screening of my favorite movie, “Strange Brew”—the source of everything I know and love about Canada!

P.S. Tim Hortons was the victor—both by popular vote and celebrity vote. A recount is underway!

 … [ Read all ]

Thanks

Written on: May 24, 2012 | 4 Comments

This week we had an agency wide Public Employee Service Recognition webinar.  Staff gathered virtually across the country to celebrate their fellow employees, especially those who have provided 35, 40, and 45+ years of Federal Service.

I am very proud of the dedicated folks I work with and although it wasn’t as good as being in all 44 facilities at once, it was terrific to hear the hooting and hollering as the names were read.

Image courtesy of alexking.org

National Archives staff are skilled public servants who help people connect with the records they need—veterans, genealogists, students, scholars, and those just curious about our history.  And this staff helps our fellow Federal employees in managing and accessing their own records and provides service to the Hill for access to Congressional Records on our shelves.

Five people who together have given the American people 237 years of service were honored:

  • Charles Johnson, a Finding Aids Specialist in Washington, DC has served 45 years.
  • Ray Hess, an Archives Technician in the National Declassification Center in College Park, MD, has served 45 years.
  • Kenneth Casey, a Transfer and Disposal Specialist at the Federal Records Center in Chicago, IL, has served 45 years.
  • Brenda Bernard, Administrative Officer in the Federal Records Center in Philadelphia, PA, has served 46 years.
  • Bernard Gardner, an Archives Technician in the Washington National Records
[ Read all ]

1940 Census Release

Written on: April 2, 2012 | 1 Comment

On April 1, 1940 over 120,000 census takers fanned out across the United States to begin conducting the 1940 census. Over the next several weeks they would enumerate over 131,000,000 residents of the country from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to families living in the remotest areas of the nation.

"Enumeration, Alaska Too Saw the Census Enumerator Arrive in His Dog Sled." National Archives and Records Administration. Series: Photographs Documenting the Sixteenth Decennial Census, compiled 1940 - 1941. ARC ID 6200721

Genealogists, social scientists, historians, and others, as well as the staff here at the National Archives, are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to discover what life was like as the country neared the end of the Great Depression. The 1940 census reflects the previous decade with questions intended to track migration and employment during the Depression. For the first time the Bureau of the Census employed sampling when conducting the census. Approximately five percent of the population was asked supplemental questions including ones about military service, the birthplace of parents, and, for women, marital status and the number of children.

"Enumeration, No Kind of Habitation was Missed, Included among the Places are Railroad Section Hands." National Archives and Records Administration. Series: Photographs Documenting the Sixteenth Decennial Census, compiled 1940 - 1941. ARC ID: 6200776

On Monday morning, I was pleased to co-host the National Archives’ ceremony … [ Read all ]

A New Presidential Library

Written on: March 29, 2012 | 2 Comments

On Tuesday of this week I had a chance to visit the construction site of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas, Texas.  Some 700 workers were onsite at the time, inside and outside, to bring this latest addition to the National Archives in on schedule in April 2013.  This facility will house more than 70 million pages of paper documents, 43,000 artifacts (primarily foreign and domestic gifts to the President and First Lady) and an immense audiovisual archive including more than 4 million photographs.

AOTUS at the George W Bush Library construction site

AOTUS at the construction site of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas

Of special significance is that digital component of the library which includes some 210 million email messages!  We began collecting email during the Ronald Reagan administration and have about 8 million from that administration and 20 million from the William Clinton White House.

The new Library and Museum was designed by architect Robert Stern and the landscaping designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh and the intended interplay between inside and outside spaces is truly magnificent.  The acreage will include a variety of Texas specific landscapes and a cistern currently under construction will collect rainwater for natural irrigation of the space.

More detail is available at www.georgewbushlibrary.gov

View the live webcam to monitor construction activity at … [ Read all ]

Nazi Looting Documentation

Written on: March 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

In Dallas this week I accepted two photo albums documenting artwork and furniture stolen by German troops in Paris.  The albums were created under Hermann Goering’s direction by Alfred Rosenberg who led the Nazi agency, Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) and served as pick lists for Adolph Hitler.  Hitler intended to create a museum in Austria.

39 of the albums were discovered in May 1945 at Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and served as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials.  The trial’s documentation is in the custody of the National Archives (www.archives.gov/research/holocaust).  The albums are meticulous records indicating where they were stolen—invaluable provenance documentation for restitution claims.

Through the work of Robert Edsel and the Monuments Men Foundation, four more albums have been discovered and added to the collection.  The albums were taken as souvenirs by American troops when they left Germany and discovered after the deaths of the soldiers.

The Monuments Men Foundation, recipient of the National Humanities Medal in November 2007, was established to carry on the mission of the original monuments men—museum directors, curators, art historians and educators, architects, artists, and librarians who volunteered “to protect the great cultural treasures of western civilization from the destruction of war and theft by Adolph Hitler and the Nazis.”  Robert Edsel’s tireless efforts have not only celebrated the accomplishments of the original group but kept … [ Read all ]

Happy Sunshine Week!

Written on: March 12, 2012 | 3 Comments

Almost 100 years ago, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote:  “Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant.  If the broad light of day could be let in upon men’s actions, it would purify them as the sun disinfects.”

I like to think that we celebrate Sunshine Week every day at the National Archives.  We have a unique role, which we describe as “preserving the past to protect the future.”  The beautiful sculptures designed by Robert I. Aitken and chiseled by the Piccarelli Brothers of the Bronx at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance echo this.  “The Past” is represented by an ancient bearded man with a scroll and “The Future is a young women with a book.  She sits atop a pedestal inscribed with “The Past is Prologue.”  That is the spirit which embodies the function we serve.

It also embodies the Freedom of Information Act which we celebrate this week.  FOIA was passed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on the Fourth of July in 1966.  Since its passage it has been used by scores of people to learn more about how our government works.  In 2010 alone, the government received more than 600,000 requests for records under the FOIA.  We are proud to have the original text of the FOIA as it was signed into law in 1966.  And we are especially proud to have it … [ Read all ]

Yes We Scan Again! The Archives chats with voters on a “We the People” teleconference

Written on: February 6, 2012 | 4 Comments

On January 10th, I blogged about the “Yes We Scan” petitions proposed by Carl Malamud’s PublicResource.org on the White House’s We The People petition platform. “Yes We Scan” calls for a national strategy, and even a Federal Scanning Commission, to figure out what it would take to digitize the holdings of many federal entities, from the Library of Congress to the Government Printing Office to the Smithsonian Institution.

I have been delighted to see the many ideas discussed in response to that blogpost. I encourage you to keep them coming!

Following that initial post, I worked with the White House Director of New Media, Macon Phillips, and the Director of Online Engagement, Katelyn Sabochik, to set up a conference call, inviting those who voted for the Yes We Scan petition (about 2,500 signers total) to further discuss this important issue and hear your ideas on how to move forward.

Sitting on the call with me were Mike Wash, NARA’s CIO; Pamela Wright, our Chief Digital Access Strategist; and Jill James, our Social Media Manager.

Eighty-five people from all over the country dialed in for the call. Eighteen participants asked questions. I want to thank you for taking the time to call in and to let us know your thoughts.

The topics included questions on everything from the magnitude of the task as hand (fyi … [ Read all ]

Thinking About the Future

Written on: January 31, 2012 | 8 Comments

I had an opportunity to provide the keynote address at a recent meeting of the Association of Library and Information School Education (ALISE). The Association has been active since 1915 in providing a forum for archive and library educators to share ideas, to discuss issues, and to seek solutions to common problems.

As I have been traveling to meet National Archives staff I have made an effort to meet with students and faculty at the graduate programs around the country to educate them about who we are and where we are headed. My goal is to excite them about opportunities to work in the Federal Government, especially my agency. So the ALISE program was a great opportunity to meet with a group of students, faculty, and deans—all in one room—and to encourage them to think about their teaching and research programs and how they meet the needs of the next generation of information professionals.

What I have been telling students is that we are looking for:

  • People with a broader background than was the case when I was a graduate student. In addition to history, archives and library science, other subject matter areas are important. Above all, we want people who can connect archival work with real life experiences.
  • Technical savvy is a given to work in a modern archives. And by savvy, I
[ Read all ]

Becoming a Citizen

Written on: December 23, 2011 | 3 Comments

Last week we celebrated Bill of Rights Day here at the National Archives in my favorite activity—a Naturalization Ceremony in the Rotunda.  On December 15, 1791, the first ten amendments the Constitution were adopted and for many years we have been marking the anniversary by hosting the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s swearing-in ceremony for new citizens of the United States.

This year, 19 individuals became citizens.  They came from Armenia, Canada, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Nigeria, Venezuela, Pakistan, Peru, United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Sri Lanka.  If you have never seen the course of instruction and examination which prospective citizens complete, it is worth a look.   Take the test yourself and see how you do!  I always find it a good reminder of how lucky we are and how much we take for granted about our rights and freedoms.

The Honorable Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court for the District of Columbia, administered the Oath of Allegiance and then shared the story of discovering his own family’s French Huguenot background.  I had an opportunity to remind them of their new responsibilities as citizens (see my remarks) and to share the story of my grandparents’ arrival from Italy.

Our special guest speaker stole the show with his story of … [ Read all ]