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by on August 28, 2014


Two articles about digitization came across my desk this week; you probably saw them too. One argued for a re-prioritization of work so that more funds could be devoted to the preservation of audiovisual materials. The other explored the work of an organization seeking out and scanning old meteorological data that only exists on paper to make the data widely accessible.

So how do we balance them? Do we prioritize the material that is currently considered the most fragile? Do we set priorities solely based on format? If we do set priorities by format, would audiovisual material actually be the first priority? I would bet that some digital formats are more vulnerable than some audio or video formats.

Or do we set priorities based on research demand? The International Environmental Data Rescue Organization and other meteorological research collection efforts make a good case for responding to needs of researchers, but their focus can change more quickly than archives are able to respond to them.

All this has me thinking about the basics of
archives: preserve and provide access to
permanently valuable records and papers.

John Buchanan v. Robert Sayers. Augusta Chancery Court 1769

John Buchanan v. Robert Sayers. Augusta Chancery Court 1769. Virginia Memory

How do we prioritize one over the other?
We can’t. There is no point in preserving
something if we can’t or won’t make it
available for use. Similarly, we can’t make
it available if it hasn’t been taken care of.
Access and preservation are symbiotic partners
in our work. Just as there are many audiovisual
items at risk of being lost if we don’t take
preservation actions, meteorological records will
be lost we don’t seek them out and make them
available for use.



Trevblog

When I came to work as the Project Archives Assistant on the NHPRC grant at Appalachian State in the Fall of 2012, my only prior experience working in the archives was limited to a few months as a student. My interests lie primarily in absorbing knowledge concerned with the history and folklore of the Appalachian Region through music, literature, arts, material culture, and—perhaps most useful of all— conversations and word of mouth. This desire to understand the history local to the region drew me to attend Appalachian State in 2007. The deciding factor in my choice of university was the existence of the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, the largest and most comprehensive collection of Appalachian materials anywhere in the world. To say I was “a kid in a candy store” when wandering around in the collection would be putting it lightly. Within the open stacks I could find materials on anything from archaeological surveys of ancient Indian Mounds to records of Kentucky fiddler Marion Sumner to a video on Virginia architectural influences in southern Ohio. As if that was not enough, just on the other side of the wall in the Dougherty Reading Room I could view documents from the ballad collections of I. G. Greer, W. Amos Abrams, and Cratis Williams or read the letters of E. B. Olmsted, a ginseng buyer in 19th Century western North Carolina. After spending time in the Eury Collection, I was determined that, if I could not eventually work there, I would at least try to work towards finding a job in a similar collection somewhere within the region.

The NHPRC grant to process the backlog within the Appalachian Collection’s archives coincided with my graduation with a degree in Appalachian Studies in 2012. I applied for the University Library Specialist knowing I would have much to learn concerned with archival practices but I was excited at the prospect of handling and helping to preserve historic documents as part of a daily routine. In processing the backlog I determined to balance my previous experience as a researcher with the practical constraints and time limitations of the grant. I began each collection by asking the same key question: How can I arrange these materials in a relatively short amount of time while still making it easy for researchers to find the items they need? Tackling many of the larger collections within the backlog, I learned that each collection features a particular set of quirks dissimilar to others. To work out how to best process a collection I found that a hammer/anvil approach—hammer being the processing guidelines and anvil being the shape of the collection itself—is needed in order to address the problems within each collection. My supervisor and the grant writer for this project, Cyndi Harbeson, was a constant sounding board for my concerns and questions regarding how best to process or reprocess a collection and helped me in balancing processing times with creating researcher friendly collections. Fellow Processing Archives Assistant Anita Elliot also picked up the slack for me in helping with processing grant materials, including knocking out a large number of the small collections as well as offering advice from her own experiences in processing.

Aside from the practical duties of processing, working on the grant introduced me to materials which reignited my enthusiasm for Appalachian history. Some of my favorite finds (as well as other eye catching items) are included on the Backlog Blog (http://appcollgrant.library.appstate.edu/) which I will continue to update until November when the grant is completed. Perhaps the most invaluable experience from the grant (along with the obvious benefits of exclusive access to rare documents) was that it allowed me to work in close contact with a Special Collections team whose members possess both scholarly and personal knowledge of the Appalachia’s landscape and culture. I am indebted to the jumpstart the NHPRC has given to my career and I hope to continue to use the knowledge I have gained through this grant to preserve and explore more collections valuable to the study of the history of this region and its people.
- written by Trevor McKenzie, Project Archivist for the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Appalachian State Special Collections and Archives



Photograph_of_Women_Working_at_a_Bell_System_Telephone_Switchboard_(3660047829)

All of the NHPRC’s program officers are at the joint annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), and the Council of State Archivists (CoSA) this week.  We are fortunate that  this meeting is being held in the Woodley Park neighborhood of Washington, DC, which is only about four miles from our offices in the National Archives Building. This allows us to have a larger presence at the meeting than is possible when the meeting is out of town.

Our blog post for July 22 and our Facebook entry for August 11 outline the many opportunities that those attending the meeting will have to learn about the NHPRC’s grant programs and speak one-on-one with a program officer. We encourage you to stop by the NHPRC’s booth (#803) during exhibit hall hours.

If you are not attending the joint annual meeting, rest assured that we will all be back in the office on Monday, August 18 to help address your last-minute questions prior to our next grant application deadline, which is August 27.  Operators will be standing by to take your calls.



We’ve scheduled webinars for people interested in applying for a grant from the NHPRC:

Application deadlines: DRAFT October 1, 2014; FINAL December 4, 2014.

Digital Dissemination of Archival Collections program with Nancy Melley.

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission invites applications for its new archival grant program to expand access to the nation’s most valuable archival resources. This grant program is designed to support the digitization of primary source materials with national historical significance. The program emphasizes the reuse of existing descriptive metadata and providing free online access to the digital surrogates.

A grant normally is for one to two years and for up to $150,000. The Commission expects to make up to 7 grants in this category for a total of up to $500,000. Grants begin no earlier than July 1, 2015.

Webinars will be held on the following dates and times:

Tuesday, August 19 @ 4:00 p.m. Eastern
Thursday, August 28 @ 4:00 p.m. Eastern
Wednesday, September 10 @ 3:00 p.m. Eastern

The webinar will be available at https://connect16.uc.att.com/gsa1/meet/?ExEventID=86764535; attendees will need to enter their name and email address.

State Government Electronic Records with Nancy Melley:

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission seeks projects that will accession, describe, preserve, and provide access to state government electronic records of enduring value. Only state archives are eligible to apply.

A grant normally is for one to three years and up to $200,000. The Commission expects to make 3 or more grants in this category, for a total of up to $600,000. Grants begin no earlier than July 1, 2015.

Thursday, August 21 @ 3 pm Eastern
Tuesday, September 9 @ 4 pm Eastern

The webinar will be available at https://connect16.uc.att.com/gsa1/meet/?ExEventID=86764535; attendees will need to enter their name and email address.

Literacy and Engagement with Historical Records with Lucy Barber:

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission seeks projects that explore ways to improve digital literacy and encourage citizen engagement with historical records.

Tuesday, August 26 @ 4:00 pm Eastern
Thursday, September 11 @ 3:00 pm Eastern

The webinar will be available at https://connect16.uc.att.com/gsa1/meet/?ExEventID=86503625; attendees will need to enter their name and email address.

 



Nixon

Forty years ago, on August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States. The troubled conclusion to his term in office was the result of the Watergate investigations, but to understand the history, we must understand the man.

Tracing the history of Richard Nixon illustrates the unique role that the National Archives and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission play together in preserving and providing access to primary source materials. The bulk of Nixon’s papers are at the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library. The National Archives Office of Presidential Libraries administers a nationwide network of 13 libraries beginning with the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. Material on Nixon’s service as Vice President from 1953-1960 can be found at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, and information on his run for the Presidency in 1960 may be found at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

Between February 16, 1971 and July 18, 1973 Richard Nixon secretly recorded roughly 3,700 hours of conversations and meetings in five different locations. With the exception of the manually-operated equipment in the Cabinet Room, Nixon’s recording system was sound-activated and recorded a wide range of conversations of varying audio and substantive quality. The Presidential Recordings Program at the Miller Center, the University of Virginia, is making those the secret White House recordings more accessible through transcripts and historical research. These recordings constitute an extremely rich historical resource, but one that cannot be unlocked without considerable time and experience in working with the tapes. Once unlocked, the tapes can, are, and will make significant contributions to our understanding of recent political history and how the U.S. government works. To that end, the PRP brings together historians, journalists, and a talented team of student interns to work with these materials to transcribe, annotate, interpret, and share them.

Researchers are also encouraged to visit the Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower,  a project at the Johns Hopkins University Press, for details of Nixon’s Vice Presidency. The NHPRC supported the annotation of those papers for nearly 20 years before the project was completed.

More on Nixon can be found in the Public Policy collections at Princeton’s Mudd Library–in particular the history of the Cold War and mid-20th century economic policy. Through a grant to the Minnesota Historical Society, the NHPRC also funded the digitization of the speeches of Hubert Humphrey, Nixon’s opponent in the 1968 Presidential Election, and through a grant to Bates College, the preservation of the papers of Edmund Muskie, the 1968 Vice Presidential nominee, who also ran for the Democratic nomination in 1972.

These resources–and there are, no doubt, others–are the essential evidence for writing the history of those times. Whether through its holdings of Federal government records or through its NHPRC support for nationally significant historical records held at other repositories, the National Archives is vital to preserving every chapter of the American story.

 



We’ve scheduled four webinars for people interested in applying for a grant under Digital Dissemination of Archival Collections program.

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission invites applications for its new archival grant program to expand access to the nation’s most valuable archival resources. This grant program is designed to support the digitization of primary source materials with national historical significance. The program emphasizes the reuse of existing descriptive metadata and providing free online access to the digital surrogates.

After completing digitization activities, applicants may also propose to undertake more complex work, such as document transcription, tagging, or geo-referencing, if these additional access points are justified by the value of the material and its expected users.

A grant normally is for one to two years and for up to $150,000. The Commission expects to make up to 7 grants in this category for a total of up to $500,000. Grants begin no earlier than July 1, 2015.

Application deadlines: DRAFT October 1, 2014; FINAL December 4, 2014.

Webinars will be held on the following dates and times:

Thursday, August 7 @ 3:00 p.m. Eastern
Tuesday, August 19 @ 4:00 p.m. Eastern
Thursday, August 28 @ 4:00 p.m. Eastern
Wednesday, September 10 @ 3:00 p.m. Eastern

The webinar will be available at https://connect16.uc.att.com/gsa1/meet/?ExEventID=86764535; attendees will need to enter their name and email address.



Schillingphoto

There is a lot of “pitching” that goes on at the NHPRC each summer. But alas, I am not referring to baseball.

Summer is a particularly valuable time for us to describe our grants programs to potential applicants. What’s the same and what’s new? What does it take for an application to be really competitive? These are invaluable discussions, and this is our “season” to make AND to listen to all sorts of pitches.

Taking place August 11-17 right here in Washington, DC, the joint annual meeting of SAA/CoSA/NAGARA provides the NHPRC staff with a perfect storm of opportunities to discuss your ideas in a variety of forums. You will have lots of chances to listen to and be heard from during this week-long meeting. SO don’t be shy! Below is a schedule of activities where you can meet up with NHPRC staff during the week:

GRANT PROGRAM Information Sessions

• NHPRC Exhibit Hall Booth (#803) – stop by anytime during exhibit hours to put a name with a face, discuss ideas, set an appointment for a lengthy conversation, or pick up some literature. In addition, we have scheduled a handful of “lightning” talks and Q&A sessions throughout the day on Friday, August 15:

  1. Archives Leadership Institute (with Lucy Barber) – 9:45-10:15AM
  2. Access to Historical Records (with Alex Lorch) – 11:45AM-12:15PM
  3. Digital Dissemination (with Nancy Melley) – 2:15-2:45PM
  4. Literacy and Engagement (with Lucy Barber) – 3:15-3:45PM

• NARA Mini-Theater in Exhibit Hall – if you can’t make it to these scheduled talks, the NHPRC staff will make a presentation on our two most popular grant categories – Access and Digital Dissemination grants – at the NARA mini-theater on Friday, August 15, 10-10:30AM

• Funders’ Corner in Network Café – throughout the meeting we will use our space in the Network Café to meet one-on-one with anyone who could use some sit down time to discuss ideas, challenges, etc.

 

STATE and GOVERNMENT ARCHIVES Activities

• PERTTS Workshop – NHPRC staff are attending parts 1 and 2 of this workshop taking place on Tuesday, August 12 and Wednesday, August 13

• CoSA Work Session – Come visit with me or Dan Stokes, and especially come listen to Nancy Melley describe the new NHPRC State Government Electronic Records grant program on Wednesday, August 13, Noon – 5PM

• State Board (SHRAB) Brown Bag Lunch – Dan Stokes and I will team up to give an overview of new NHPRC program initiatives for state boards, and listen to your feedback and challenges, on Thursday, August 14, noon-1:15PM

• CoSA Business Meeting – an opportunity to get an overview of the past year and help us read the tea leaves for what’s coming up in the next, with Dan Stokes and myself fielding your questions and comments, on Friday, August 15, 12:30-2:30PM

 

SESSION/EVENT Participation

• Session #501: Taken for Granted: How Term Positions Affect New Professionals and the Repositories that Employ Them will include NHPRC grants officer Alex Lorch among the speakers on Friday, August 15, 2:45-3:45PM

• Archives Leadership Institute Practices Workshop on Sunday August 17, 9AM-1PM will include one or more NHPRC staff attending

 

And for my final PITCH… we have found that applicants really benefit from discussing their ideas with us during this pre-application time, so I encourage you to use the annual meeting to your advantage. We are happy to chat and meet with you!



I noticed recently that my doctor’s practice has gone entirely electronic. There were gaps in the records of course, but I was pretty impressed at how complete the system was. And it got me to thinking about the history of electronic records in archives. NRFF-255-70-37(6)-CCK1; NA Id 278195

I had the privilege of working for the National Archives custodial electronic records program – one of the oldest archival electronic records programs in the country; its first accession was in 1970 –before joining the NHPRC. When I started at the National Archives, electronic records meant databases – generally in the form of flat files or CSV files. We didn’t preserve the user guides; we printed them out. Google was barely two years and social media was barely a flicker in Mark Zuckerberg’s eyes. Until the Access to Archival Databases (AAD) utility was built in the early 2000s, the only way to provide access to any electronic records was copying the files onto removable media and making a paper copy of the user guide.

NHPRC was an early proponent when it came to electronic records. The Commission funded its first electronic records project in 1979 – “to develop procedures to schedule, accession, and retrieve information from machine-readable records of Wisconsin state agencies.” We just funded a project at George Washington University that will result in preservation protocols for Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. In the 35 years between the two projects, we have funded about 100 projects that extend the profession’s ability to preserve electronic records. These projects provided training; tested new preservation protocols; set up electronic records programs in a variety of organizations: state archives, museums, colleges and universities; and explored how to preserve and provide access to specific types of records formats like email and GIS.

Where am I going with all this history? Good question. The rapid progress of the archives community in the last 15 years certainly is part of what I wanted to focus on, but there is something else too. I’m not entirely sure that I can articulate it: we will not be able to stop the evolution of records, but we will be able to deal with it.

What is our greatest triumph thus far in working with electronic records? What do you think our greatest challenge is in preserving and providing access to electronic records will be five years from now? How about ten?

Three Huzzas from the Troops

by on July 9, 2014


charters

Fireworks, ice-cold watermelon, and cookouts provided the makings of a perfect July 4 holiday for many Americans this last weekend, but readers of documents on Founders Online can learn that some early patriots celebrated independence in a much more rambunctious way. In fact most Americans did not learn about the Second Continental Congress’ actions until many days later. This included one very important American. Stationed in New York City, Continental Army General George Washington did not receive a copy of the Declaration of Independence until July 9. The receipt of this news could not have come at a better time. For several weeks British General William Howe had besieged the city’s harbors and built a massive fleet in order to invade Manhattan. His presence caused conflict between the early patriots and those remaining loyal to the British crown. On 17 April 1776, Washington wrote to the New York Committee of Safety for their assistance in reigning in locals who provided the British Navy with supplies and intelligence information:

“It would Gentlemen, be taking up too much of your time to use further Arguments in proof of the necessity of putting an immediate and total Stop to all future Correspondence with the Enemy.”

Despite Washington’s request, by early July the British Navy still received supplies from the mainland while Continental Army soldiers had few munitions and had grown sickly and hungry. Upon receipt of the Declaration on 9 July, Washington ordered the document read to the soldiers from the steps of New York’s City Hall.

“The Honorable the Continental Congress, impelled by the dictates of duty, policy and necessity, having been pleased to dissolve the Connection which subsisted between this Country, and Great Britain, and to declare the United Colonies of North America, free and independent STATES: The several brigades are to be drawn up this evening on their respective Parades, at six OClock, when the declaration of Congress, shewing the grounds & reasons of this measure, is to be read with an audible voice.

The General hopes this important Event will serve as a fresh incentive to every officer, and soldier, to act with Fidelity and Courage, as knowing that now the peace and safety of his Country depends (under God) solely on the success of our arms: And that he is now in the service of a State, possessed of sufficient power to reward his merit, and advance him to the highest Honors of a free Country.”

According to General Samuel Blachley Webb’s Correspondence and Journals, the reading of the document was “received by three Huzzas from the Troops.” Later that evening, though, the crowd got much more rowdy, even riotous, and pulled down a lead statue of King George III in Lower Manhattan’s Bowling Green park. The patriots later melted the statue down to make 42,000 musket munitions for the Continental Army, but Washington was less than impressed with the crowd’s behavior and mildly reprimanded them, as noted in his General Orders for 10 July 1776:

“’Tho the General doubts not the persons, who pulled down and mutilated the Statue, in the Broadway, last night, were actuated by Zeal in the public cause; yet it has so much the appearance of riot and want of order, in the Army, that he disapproves the manner, and directs that in future these things shall be avoided by the Soldiery, and left to be executed by proper authority.”

Founders Online provides insight not only to the thoughts and actions of the Founders themselves but also gives readers a feel for the pulse of less well-known patriots in the early American republic. Try searching terms like “riot,” “mob,” and “effigy” for some similar stories.



It’s July 2!!

Happy Independence Day!!

fireworks-6

Many of us grew up with the impression that the Founding Fathers declared independence from Britain when they approved and signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It is now more widely known that the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, actually declared independence on July 2. John Adams, writing to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, noted that:

Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony “that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do.”

In a second letter to Abigail, written later that same day, Adams wrote:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. 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.

I became aware of this second letter from John Adams to Abigail several years ago, but I did not realize that a response from Abigail also existed. In a letter dated July 13, Abigail Adams responded to her husband’s extraordinary news:

 [T]ho your Letters never fail to give me pleasure, be the subject what it will, yet it was greatly heightned by the prospect of the future happiness and glory of our Country; nor am I a little Gratified when I reflect that a person so nearly connected with me had the Honour of being a principal actor, in laying a foundation for its future Greatness. May the foundation of our new constitution, be justice, Truth and Righteousness. Like the wise Mans house may it be founded upon those Rocks and then neither storms or tempests will overthrow it.

I also wondered how other Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, shared the news of this most significant of events through their correspondence during July of 1776. Although a few letters exist, none reach the heights of enthusiasm exhibited by John Adams. George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, was in New York while the Continental Congress was declaring independence in Philadelphia, but he had similar thoughts on his mind. General Orders issued on July 2, 1776, state that:

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, Freemen, or Slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their Houses, and Farms, are to be pillaged and destroyed, and they consigned to a State of Wretchedness from which no human efforts will probably deliver them. The fate of unborn Millions will now depend, under God, on the Courage and Conduct of this army—Our cruel and unrelenting Enemy leaves us no choice but a brave resistance, or the most abject submission; this is all we can expect.

Thanks to the availability of Founders Online, I was able to easily search for and discover these additional documents. What other topics await further discovery?