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In many cases, depending upon the type of research you or your students are doing, it might become necessary to actually step across the threshold of the National Archives.  Thousands upon thousands of records are stored there that have not yet been scanned or placed online. Some may never be.

There are 15 research facilities of the National Archives across the United States.  The buildings don’t look exactly the same.  Some were built especially for the National Archives, but some may be as humble as converted government warehouses.  However, the experience inside is largely the same.

The National Archives Building in Washington DC.

The National Archives Building in Washington, DC

The National Archives at College Park (Maryland)

The National Archives at College Park (Maryland)

Exterior of the National Archives at Seattle

The National Archives at Seattle

We want students to visit us, as well as adults.  National Archives records are waiting for resourceful researchers to help discover the truth about history.  The documents themselves may have been sitting for decades, untouched, waiting to be uncovered.

When entering any National Archives a facility, there may be a security officer greeting you at the door and specific procedures to follow.  Someone will tell you what to do. Occasionally, you may simply walk into a lobby with an attendant at a desk.  Either way, with very little effort you will get in. (If you are younger than 14, we would like you to come with an adult.)

Microfilm Room and Attendant at the National Archives at Seattle

Microfilm Research Room at the National Archives at Seattle

Once you are inside, you will need to speak with someone about your project.  The attendants and archivists will help you.  If you will be looking at original documents, they will have you fill out a researcher application, provide some identification, and read some rules of conduct in order to receive a researcher card.  Then you may narrow down your search by reviewing “finding aids.”  Once your materials are identified, the attendant will disappear into the “stacks” and ask you to come back at a specified time to retrieve your materials.

Of course, the archives “stacks,” shown below, are not open to the public.  Only the archives staff members have access to them.

“Stacks” of documents in a facility of the National Archives

“Stacks” of Documents in the National Archives

The boxes on these shelves often hold what appear to be ordinary file folders.  These files are from the file cabinets of federal agencies and are stored in the Archives for various reasons.  One of those reasons is their importance to future historians!

Archival file box from The National Archives at Anchorage.

Archival file box from the National Archives at Anchorage

File folder example from The National Archives at Anchorage.

File folder from the National Archives at Anchorage

Other types of records include photographs, maps, and drawings (at all facilities), and motion picture film and audio tapes (only at our College Park location).

For some of the facilities, it is best to make an appointment with an archivist in advance.  That way, you will have some boxes already pulled from the “stacks” when you arrive. Advance appointments are not available at all locations.

You can find more information, hours of operation, contact email addresses and phone numbers, and a map of our locations at



The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum will offer two exciting professional development opportunities, totaling more than 10 hours of credit, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the next month.

“Mr. and Mrs. Polk’s War: A Presidential Partnership for Texas and Manifest Destiny”
Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 6:00 pm-8:00 pm, McCord Auditorium, Southern Methodist University (SMU)

Join the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and SMU’s Center for Presidential History in welcoming Dr. Amy S. Greenburg, the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of History and Women’s Studies at Penn State University, as she speaks about the “Presidential partnership” formed by the Polks and the impact of the U.S.-Mexican War on the growth of America.

A light reception will precede the event beginning at 5:30. Several of Professor Greenberg’s publications will also be available for purchase and signing after the presentation. FREE parking passes will be emailed to registered guests before the event.

The event is free and two hours of Professional Development credit will be awarded to teachers who sign in at the registration table. Visit to register or learn more.

“When Life Strikes the White House: Death, Scandal, Illness, and the Responsibilities of a President”

Join the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, SMU’s Center for Presidential History, and SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies for two lectures and a full-day symposium exploring the way crises have affected presidents, from Andrew Jackson to Bill Clinton.

Each event requires separate registration and is described below. Certificates will be presented for each event attended, so you do not have to attend all sessions to receive credit.

Keynote Lecture by Richard Reeves
Tuesday, February 18, 2014, 7:00 pm, Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

Two hours of Professional Development credit will be awarded to teachers who sign in at the registration table. Cost is $25 per person. Visit to register or learn more.

Panel Program
Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm, Bob Hope Theater at the Owen Arts Center, SMU

Panel 1: Personal Crisis and Public Responsibility
Panel 2: A Loss in the Family
Panel 3: Presidential Illness

The panel programs are free and 1.5 hours of Professional Development credit will be awarded for each panel attended to teachers who sign in at the registration table. You must sign in at each event and will receive a separate certificate for each panel. Visit to register or learn more.

Capstone Presentation by Ambassador Karen Hughes
Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 7:00 pm, Auditorium, George W. Bush Institute

Two hours of Professional Development credit will be awarded to teachers who sign in at the registration table. Visit to register or learn more.

Reconstruction was a tumultuous period in American history, and the question of whether it produced lasting change in regard to civil rights is still debated by scholars. A DocsTeach Activity using primary sources allows your students to enter the debate and develop critical thinking skills by evaluating historical congressional records as historians.

Available on, the National Archives resource for teachers, the classroom activity engages students in analyzing documents that illustrate multiple perspectives on the Reconstruction era. The students form hypotheses about the amount of change depicted, and support their interpretations verbally or in writing. Students can work on this activity in small groups, in pairs, or individually. This activity works best at the conclusion of a unit of study on the era.

Begin by introducing the guiding question, seen above as the title of this post, and initiating a class discussion to define the term “revolution.” Pose questions such as: What is a revolution? What other topics have students studied that were called revolutions? What features made them revolutionary? What might you expect to see if a revolution indeed occurred? How significant must change be in order to be called revolutionary? Can a revolution affect some aspects of society and leave others untouched? How quickly must change occur to be considered revolutionary? How long must significant change last in order to be called revolutionary? Encourage students to draw from their responses to these questions throughout this activity.

House Joint Resolution proposing the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, December 7, 1868; from the General Records of the United States Government

House Joint Resolution proposing the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, December 7, 1868; from the General Records of the United States Government (The amendment was ratified by the states on February 3, 1870)

When students have formed definitions for revolution, begin Part 1 of the DocsTeach Activity. In it, the students will evaluate seven primary source documents and assess the extent to which each illustrates revolutionary change. Using the Weighing the Evidence tool, students will place the documents on a scale to indicate their assessment that “Yes, the changes which occurred in the nation amount to a revolution” or “No, the changes which occurred in the nation fell short of revolutionary.” As the documents are placed on the scale, the balance will tip to visually demonstrate which assessment has the most supporting evidence. When all the documents have been analyzed, students will answer the guiding question—to what extent was Reconstruction a revolution?—using examples from the documents to support their answer.

DocsTeach screenshot

Part 2 of the lesson employs the Spotlight feature of the Focusing on the Details tool. The students view an image of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which highlights the full name of the act—“An Act to Enforce the 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” Ask students to compare the date of this document to the date of the constitutional amendment it was created to enforce. Why did this document come 95 years after the 15th Amendment? Was it part of the same revolution as Reconstruction? Or is it part of a new revolution? Was there a revolution? Does this document change your answer to the guiding question? Why or why not?

DocsTeach screenshot


Was Reconstruction a Revolution? (Part 1) is available from DocsTeach at Part 2 is available at

A version of this lesson is also available from the National Archives’ Center for Legislative Archives.

Join a distance learning opportunity for students in grades 3–8 via videoconference, live stream, or recording on January 14th from 10–11:15 a.m. CST: Reading Discovery with First Lady Barbara Bush from the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Register for the live stream or video conference before noon (CST) tomorrow, January 9, at Registration for the recording will remain open.The Stage During a Barbara Bush Reading Discovery Program

First Lady Barbara Bush will read excerpts from the award-winning book “Liberty” by Lynn Curlee. Mrs. Bush will answer questions asked by students during a videoconference.

Lynn Curlee, author and artist, will share research and writing tips about the history of the Statue of Liberty as well as his artwork. On-stage students as Reading Buddies will provide excerpts from this awe-inspiring monumental work.

The program concludes with The Quartet of Singing Cadets at Texas A&M University. “Liberty” will be distributed based on registration date and availability of books.

Get the flyer and find more information on the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum website.

Today’s post comes from Anna Lewis, social media intern in the Education and Public Programs division, based on the DocsTeach descriptions and activity created by Annie Davis, education specialist at the National Archives at Boston.

We recently uploaded documents from our holdings at the National Archives (from the Records of District Courts of the United States) to DocsTeach to star in a new activity: Oh Freedom!

Students can learn the personal story of two individuals—William and Ellen Craft—and recognize the aid provided to fugitive slaves and the challenges they faced even after making it to free states such as Massachusetts.

William (1824-1900) and Ellen Craft (1826-1891) were enslaved people who escaped from their respective masters in Macon, GA, in December of 1848. Ellen, the daughter of an African-American woman and a White master, passed as a White gentleman accompanied by a slave valet, William. They made their way to Boston, MA.

Attorney Willis H. Hughes filed this complaint against Ellen Craft, and another against William Craft, on behalf of their former owners in Macon, Georgia.

Cover of Willis H. Hughes' Complaint Against Ellen Craft

Because of the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850—part of the Compromise of 1850—law enforcement in non-slave states had an obligation to apprehend escaped slaves, including the Crafts.

A civil case began in 1850 concerning their escape from slavery. A man named John Knight swore in affidavits that he knew William Craft as Ira H. Taylor’s slave (shown here) and Ellen Craft as Robert Collins’s slave in Georgia. The Massachusetts law enforcement and courts would have to send William and Ellen back to Macon.

John Knight's Affidavit Confirming He Knew William Craft as Ira H. Taylor's Slave

The court issued this warrant to find and capture William Craft, a “fugitive from labor,” with the intention of returning him to Georgia. The Census of 1850 shows the Crafts living in freedom at the home of Lewis Hayden in Massachusetts.

In 1850, a deputy U.S. Marshall sought them out at Hayden’s home, but Hayden denied that they were there and threatened violence, such that the U.S. Marshall departed.

According to this warrant issued following this incident, “the complaintant [in the case] didn’t want the [original] warrant returned as he was “informed that the said Crafts [were still] in…this city.” However, within a few weeks the U.S. Marshall of Massachusetts reported: “I have made diligent search for…William Craft, and cannot find him…”

U.S. Marshal’s Return of Writ to Apprehend William Craft

The Crafts fled to Britain, where they lived for 20 years, raising their family, lecturing about the freedom movement, and writing their memoir Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom (1860) (available online from Documenting the American South (DocSouth)). They later returned to the United States and settled in Georgia.