Archive for December, 2010

The National Archives Through Children’s Eyes

Written on: December 27, 2010 | 1 Comment

A few months ago, I received 15 handcrafted thank you notes from a group of school children who had visited with their parents and teachers from the Saltonstall School in Salem, Massachusetts.


I had the opportunity to answer their questions before their tour of the National Archives. My favorite question was from a young boy who asked, “Which is older, this building or you?” The question certainly stopped me in my tracks — and the parents and teachers were rolling in the aisles! And when I calculated the answer, I was appalled that the building opened ONLY ten years before I was born!

From their thank you notes, you can tell the visit made a big impression. Here are my favorite quotes: 

“It was an incredible experience being just a few feet away from the documents that made our nation as it is today.” ~Cindy N.

“Thanks for showing us the most important Archives in the United States.” ~Sabrina O.

“Seeing all of the old documents will help me on my project about Washington, DC.” ~Marina W.

“Just knowing that I was staring right at our nation’s history means a lot.” ~Madyson P.

“I have only seen pictures of the Declaration of Independence, and it was really cool to see it in person.” ~Maise S.

“My favorite part was seeing you in the auditorium.” ~Sophia [ Read all ]

A Time For Remembering

Written on: December 23, 2010 | 2 Comments

The holidays have always been a time for me to remember those who have gone on before me — a large extended family descended from Italian and Irish immigrants. Christmas day was usually split between the two families and never together in the same place. The two enthnicities were still very much at war in my Boston suburb!

The holidays also meant visiting cemeteries to decorate graves. Those memories were brought back on Decemember 11, when I participated in the Wreaths Across America program at Arlington National Cemetery. For the 19th consecutive year, the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine donated balsam fir holiday wreaths. Thousands of volunteers gathered early to place 20,000 wreaths in four sections of the cemetery. Special wreath ceremonies were conducted at the Kennedy Family Memorial, the Battleship USS Maine Monument, and the Tomb of the Unkowns throughout the morning.


I chose to honor William Henry Christman, the 19 year old Union soldier who died before seeing battle and became the first burial at Arlington and Arthur Halligan, the father of a former colleague from the New York Public Library who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. 

I learned about Pvt. Christman after reading Robert’ Poole’s On Hallowed Ground, and from the records we have at the National Archives. He died on May 11, 1864 of peritonitis and … [ Read all ]

Change You Can See and Experience

Written on: December 20, 2010 | 9 Comments

Change is not easy, but NARA staff members are doing it with enthusiam and we are seeing the results.

Wireless internet is now available for researchers who use our Washington, DC and College Park, MD facilities. This service is free and available to registered researchers.

On Monday, we launched the redesigned With your help, we have made it easier for researchers, veterans, teachers, and visitors to find the information they are looking for. This summer, you voted and we listened.


The Redesigned

Later this month, we will launch Online Public Access, a prototype for a new search and display in the research section of We want to encourage you to experience the new search interface and send your feedback to


Coming Soon: Online Public Access

This month, we will also release the first National Archives’ mobile application called “Today’s Document,” based on the popular feature on


Also Coming Soon: Today’s Document Mobile App

And in January, NARA staff will begin to use an internal collaboration platform. This platform will use social-media based software to enable staff to better communicate, collaborate, and build communities.

We will see even more changes in this coming year.

Our Transformation Launch Team is engaging staff in an agency-wide reorganization and an identifcation of core values. The team is also working on substantial … [ Read all ]

In an Archives State of Mind

Written on: December 10, 2010 | 0 Comments

In my first year on the job, I have become a fan of the daily horoscopes in the Washington Post. My favorite so far:

Many feel limited by the work they do. You won’t be in this category today, though. Your work expands you. You’ll be excited by what you learn, and you feel privileged to do what you do.

I feel both excited and privileged to serve as the Archivist of the United States. On December 2, 2010, I had the opportunity to express this in my State of the Archives Address. Take a moment to watch the video of the event or read the text of my speech.

[ Read all ]

History Through the Camera Lens

Written on: December 3, 2010 | 2 Comments

Earlier this fall, I was struck by the photograph below, located on the wall outside the Still Pictures Room in our College Park facility.


Capt. Edward J. Steichen, USNR, (retired), photographic expert on island platform, studies his surroundings for one of his outstanding photographs of life aboard an aircraft carrier. Capt. Steichen held the rank of Comdr. at this time., ca. 11/1943

After reading the caption, I discovered that the famous photographer, Edward Steichen, had worked for the military during World War II. Ed McCarter, our Supervisory Archivist of Still Pictures, told me that Steichen had worked for the Navy on the U.S.S. Carrier Lexington in World War II, as a 62 year-old. At the National Archives, we have about 30 photographs that identify Steichen as the photographer, but there are likely many more because he also served as head of a photography unit in the Air Service in World War I.

Steichen was 67 years old when he completed active duty after World War II, and during that time had to be reinstated when he had reached retirement age. In his book, A Life in Photography, he describes his experience: “Everything about an aircraft carrier is dramatic, but the most spectacular things are the take-offs and landings of the planes.”


F6F takes off from USS Lexington (CVA 16) for third day of strikes [ Read all ]