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The Challenge of Digital Records for Archivists

Press Secretary Larry Speakes Working at a Computer in his Office

President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, Larry Speakes, works at his computer in July 1985.

October 10 is Electronic Records Day, and October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts about the Presidential libraries. The records created by Presidents while in office will become part of the National Archives, and eventually will be used by researchers. Here’s how it happens! 

Today’s post comes from John Laster, Director of the Presidential Materials Division at the National Archives.

It is American Archives Month! This is an opportunity to celebrate our profession—all that we have accomplished and the exciting challenges that await us in the future.  For me, there is nothing more exciting—or daunting—than the challenges that digital records pose for archivists.

As the Director of the Presidential Materials Division, I see firsthand the issues playing out when born-digital Presidential records are transferred every four or eight years and then again through the following steps of the lifecycle as these records are searched, reviewed, and made available.

Digital records are nothing new, but with each passing year they become more prevalent and intertwined in our professional lives. With Presidential records, we have gone from receiving basic email created by the Reagan administration to preparing to accept a wide range of information from social media sites used by President … [ Read all ]

Talk #POTUSvacation with us on Twitter!

Work can be stressful, especially when you’re the Commander in Chief.  Each President has sought a place to relax from the rigors of the White House. George Washington escaped to Mount Vernon, and for the next two weeks the Obama family is vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard.

This summer, we invite you to explore Presidential vacations!

Let's GoThe Presidential Libraries have film footage, photos, letters, schedules, artifacts, and much more that provide a fascinating view into POTUS vacations. You can choose your own adventure on Instagram and chat with us on Twitter.

On Wednesday, August 19, join us for a #POTUSvacation Twitter chat!  Presidential Library archivists and curators will be on hand to answer your questions and share stories from:

We’ll also be joined by:

[ Read all ]

Take a break with Presidential vacations!

Need a vacation? This summer, go on a vacation with 13 of our Presidents!  You can choose your own adventure on Instagram and chat with us on Twitter on August 19 using #POTUSvacation.  

Vacations are an integral part of Presidential history, a way for Presidents to relax and recharge outside of Washington. Many of the iconic images that we associate with Presidents were taken while on retreats from the White House.


The tradition of a summer White House dates back to the beginning of the Presidency, and several of our Commanders in Chief have had dedicated family retreats.  These retreats have been a place to recuperate, spend time with family, … [ Read all ]

Before the ADA, there was Deaf President Now

Danica Rice is an archives technician at the National Archives at Seattle, is partially Deaf, and considers herself a member of the Deaf culture and community.

During our celebration of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it’s worth reflecting on an event two years earlier that served as a catalyst for the Deaf community and may well have pushed passage of the legislation forward. The eight-day event I refer to is called Deaf President Now, and it happened in Washington, DC, on the Gallaudet University campus and involved marches in nearby areas as well.

The charter for Galluadet University: April 8, 1864, Public Law 43: An Act to authorize the Columbia Institution for the Deaf & Dumb and the Blind to confer degrees.

The charter for Gallaudet University, signed by Abraham Lincoln, April 8, 1864, Public Law 43: An Act to authorize the Columbia Institution for the Deaf & Dumb and the Blind to confer degrees. (National Archives)

In March of 1988, Gallaudet’s Board of Trustees was responsible for choosing between three deaf and one hearing candidate for the presidency of the only fully Deaf university in the country. After hasty deliberation, they chose the hearing candidate.

The resulting uproar among the students and faculty led to marches protesting the decision, which were nationally recognized by the media. Protesters associated themselves with the civil rights movement by stating “we still have a dream,” making it easier for people to understand where the Deaf as a culture and … [ Read all ]

The Archivist’s Favorite Pancakes

Some might say the best part of sleeping over at the National Archives is snoozing the night away beneath the Constitution, but we know the best part is having the Archivist of the United States make you pancakes for breakfast!

Enjoying pancakes made by the Archivist.

Enjoying pancakes made by the Archivist.

Three times a year, kids and their parents can stay overnight at the National Archives. And the next morning, David S. Ferriero is there, taking a break from his job as head of the agency to flip pancakes for our guests.

We asked him to share his favorite recipe that he uses when he makes pancakes at home–and now you can make pancakes just like the Archivist!

The Archivist’s Pancakes

Yield: 30 pancakes—depending on size


2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups milk
4 tbsp melted butter
2 large eggs


1.  Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt

2. Separately mix together milk, butter and eggs

3.  Add dry ingredients to wet and mix—don’t overmix

4.  Spoon or pour batter (amount dependent upon how big you want them) onto griddle or frying pan

5. Sprinkle on chocolate chips or berries and cook for a couple of minutes until underside is brown

6. Flip and cook another couple of minutes


Southpaws at work! Patrick Madden, director of the Foundation for the National Archives, and David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, flip pancakes.

Southpaws at work! Patrick Madden,

[ Read all ]