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On the Move: An Update on Records Being Sent to Off-site Storage from the DC-area

by on March 25, 2011


The following is a guest post from Susan Cummings, Director of Access Programs.

At the last couple of Researcher Users Group meetings we discussed the need for NARA to periodically move records out of Archives I and II to make room for new accessions to be processed by the DC area staff.  Subsequently, we posted for your reference a list of the records that had previously been moved.

Today I want to talk to you a little more about how we make the tough decisions on what records to move. In 2004 we stood up a committee to look at long-range planning for housing archival records. The committee assembled criteria to determine if records are move candidates. What are the criteria?

  • The records are seldom (once in three to five years) or never used by researchers or staff.
  • Use by researchers and staff can be reduced to infrequent levels by changes in work processes or procedures. (For example, the records (series) are available on microfilm, or as scanned images in our online catalog, or through a Digital Partner like Ancestry.com.)
  • The level of intellectual control over the records enables users to request retrieval of individual containers (as opposed to entire series). Case Files are preferred.

and

  • The records have no special housing requirements, except requirements for oversized storage.
  • The records do not require on-site conservation services or on-site reformatting services.
  • The records have no infrastructure requirements, except requirements for secure (but not classified) storage.

and

  • Space is not or cannot be made available at Archives I or Archives II.
  • The records occupy space sufficient to justify the cost of relocation.
  • Sufficient space is available in the Off Site Archival Bay.

There have been some questions this week about what additional records were moving in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011. All of them except RG 15 will be going to our facility in Lenexa, Kansas. Here is the list:

Archives I
RG 15 – Records of the Veterans Affairs, NSO, NSC, NWO, and NWC Pension Files, A1 Entries 5-8. These are available on National Archives Microfilm Publications M1408, M1469, M1274, and M1279. There is a database listing of these materials. These records are going to the NARA facility in St. Louis that holds the archival military personnel records.

RG 21 – Case Files of the District Court of the United States from the District of Columbia, Civil Action Case Files, 1938-1969. These files are retrievable by a case number;

RG 287 – Publications of the U.S. Government;

RG 503: Court of Customs and Patent Appeals case files

Archives II

RG 241 – Patent Case Files

This list was also published in the minutes from the February 18th Users Group meeting. There are no new additions or surprises.

As I promised at the February 18th meeting, I am committed to being open with staff and researchers about our plans. I welcome your insights as we struggle with providing maximum access to all our records.

Susan Cummings
Director
Access Programs


Comments

Virginia April 24, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Please KEEP these records in DC:
RG 15 – Records of the Veterans Affairs, NSO, NSC, NWO, and NWC Pension Files, A1 Entries 5-8. These are available on National Archives Microfilm Publications M1408, M1469, M1274, and M1279. There is a database listing of these materials. These records are going to the NARA facility in St. Louis that holds the archival military personnel records.

Karen Needles April 28, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Moving records to St. Louis and regional facilities is NOT providing access to the records of the National Archives. Upper management decisions moving records out of the D.C. area is destroying not preserving the organization of the records created by the agencies which created them. Each record group and entry has an important tie to related records in other record groups. Unless you work with the records, you wouldn’t know this.
With the economy in dire straits, along with gasoline and airfare prices rapidly rising, you are forcing serious researchers who use the records to have to travel around the country. Actions like these are not providing access, but restricting access. Records are collecting dust at regional facilities because no one goes to regional facilities. Most research rooms at regional facilities consist of four or less tables, and the visitorship is next to nothing.
Moving these records to St. Louis will in effect will begin killing any serious research at Archives I and the Washington, D. C. facility.
It is time that the higher management making these decision spend serious time learning the records and understanding why they need to be kept in one central location.
Have you ever tried getting records from St. Louis? It isn’t pretty! What would encourage anyone to visit St. Louis? There is nothing there. Here in D.C. a scholar has access to the LOC, the Smithsonian, DAR, etc. all in one central location.
Denying access to original documents that have been scanned by a commercial entity, like Ancestry violates the mission of the Archives. In effect, the Archives is providing access to the highest bidder. The American public has the right to free access to these records. These digital partnerships are “non-exclusionary” contracts, which have become exclusionary denying access to the original documents. The images that Ancestry provides do not represent the original document. Until they are provided IN COLOR, in their original format, forcing taxpaying researchers to use a commercial product is violating their right to free access.
When other companies and scholars are denied access to original documents because a previous digital partnership has scanned them, it is in violation of free access.
Are researchers upset? You bet they are. They are fed up with bad decisions that are weakening the Archives and the records they are the custodians of.
It is time to start taking care of the mission of the Archives, which is preservation and access, and stop wasting millions of dollars depriving researchers of space in favor of a larger gift shop and exhibit space.
I’m sure that this is just the beginning of the end for important records that are heavily used at the Archives facility in D.C.
Actions like this are not going to make the Archives a premiere “archival research facility”.

Claire Bettag May 12, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Those of us attending the 2011 National Genealogical Conference in Charleston this week (11-14 May) were pleased to hear the opening address by Archivist, David Ferriero. He said the pension records would not be sent to another facility until after they were digitized. We are, of course, pleased to hear this news! Thank you!

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