Archive for October, 2010

Open to Change

Written on: October 26, 2010 | 74 Comments

Since my swearing in as the 10th Archivist of the United States less than a year ago, we’ve taken important steps to become a more open, transparent, participatory, and collaborative agency.

I’m proud of our accomplishments:

We’ve made a great start, but we have a lot more to do if we are to be well-positioned to meet the challenges we face in the 21st century.

It’s time for us to step out of our comfort zones and rethink how we operate as an agency.

A few months ago, I charged a task force to draft a plan for agency transformation. A draft plan was circulated internally for staff input. I’d like to thank the NARA staff who submitted hundreds of thoughtful comments on the proposed plan. Their insight was indispensable in the development of the final report.

Last week their final report, “A Charter for Change,” was issued to staff. The report outlines a new organizational model for the National Archives. These organizational changes are driven by a set of guiding principles. These are the pillars of how we … [ Read all ]

Hometown Rivalries Debate the Birthplace of the U.S. Navy

Written on: October 20, 2010 | 0 Comments

Last Wednesday, I celebrated the 235th birthday of the U.S. Navy at the USS Constitution Museum at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. It was a fun event full of hometown pride and spirited debate. I brought with me Senior Archivist Trevor Plante and original records from the National Archives to discuss the Revolutionary origins of the U.S. Navy. The crowd, mostly from Beverly and Marblehead, Massachusetts, had a great time discussing and debating their hometown claims to being the “birthplace” of the U.S. Navy.

On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the outfitting of two ships for “intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct.” This date marks the first Congressional action and, therefore, is celebrated as the “birthday” of the U.S. Navy.

act-of-oct-13-1775Although the birth date is clear, there is still much debate and hometown rivalry surrounding the “birthplace” of the U.S. Navy. The claims are numerous: Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress passed the Act of October 13, 1775; Machias, Maine, where two small ships armed with woodsmen capture the British schooner Margaretta in June 1775; Providence, Rhode Island, because their delegates to the Continental Congress were the first to propose a resolution to build and equip an American fleet in October 1775; and … [ Read all ]

Croutons, Pepper, and the Hole

Written on: October 8, 2010 | 3 Comments

While visiting the National Archives at San Francisco this summer, the Director, Daniel Nealand, introduced me to a rare and fascinating audio recording of an Alcatraz prisoner. The recording was recovered from a 1947 SoundScriber disc within Record Group 129, Records of the Bureau of Prisons at the National Archives.mancuso-mug-shot

The recording is twelve and a half minutes of a Bureau of Prisons official interviewing Inmate 417, Salvatore Mancuso on January 27, 1947. Mancuso is being “charged with the possession of contraband” –croutons and pepper! The official wants to know what Mancuso was doing with croutons and asks, “you running a restaurant up there?”

Listen to the audio clip, “Mancuso and Croutons”:

The prison official says, “Mancuso, you know, it’s pretty serious –there’s pepper too.” He wants to know why Mancuso needs enough pepper to “cut through a thousand sandwiches.” For these charges, the prison official says they are going to have to give him “solitary this time.” Mancuso asks, “Can’t you do it without the hole this time?”

Listen to the audio clip, “Mancuso and the Hole”:

According to Bureau of Prisons Archivist Anne Diestel, the recording is probably an Alcatraz disciplinary hearing, and the main Bureau of Prisons Alcatraz official conducting the hearing is most likely an Associate Warden, although he is not identified in the recording.

Salvatore Mancuso was imprisoned at Alcatraz … [ Read all ]