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Want two free tickets to the Oscars?

Well, we can’t send you to Hollywood, but we can give you two reserved seats to our free film screenings starting on Wednesday, February 26!

The National Archives is hosting the 10th annual free screenings of the Academy Award nominees in four categories—Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Live Action Short Film, and Animated Short Film.

We’re giving away four sets of reserved tickets. You can choose the screening you would like to attend.

Just look for the hashtag #ArchivesOscar on Twitter, and answer the question! If we pick your reply (selected randomly), you’ll receive two reserved tickets for a screening.

You will have four opportunities to enter on Wednesday and Thursday. Good luck!

The screenings are presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in partnership with the Charles Guggenheim Center for the Documentary Film and the Foundation for the National Archives.

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. No reservations are accepted. Free tickets are distributed at the Special Events entrance on Constitution Avenue, 60 minutes prior to start time. You must be present to receive a ticket. Theater doors open 30 minutes prior to start time. The saving of seats is strictly prohibited. Please note that some films may not be appropriate for general audiences.

Documentary Feature Nominees

Saturday, March 1, 7 p.m.
Dirty Wars
Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill… [ Read all ]

On Display: Record of the Kidnapping of Solomon Northup

The slave manifest of the brig Orleans, April 27, 1841 is on display from February 21 to March 30 in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. Today’s post comes from curator Corinne Porter.

From the birth of the American republic to the abolition of slavery, kidnapping for sale into slavery was a constant threat to free black people in the United States. In 1841, Solomon Northup, a free-born African American from New York, was kidnapped by two white men and enslaved for 12 years in the deep South before he could prove his legal right to freedom. However, his liberation from bondage was exceptional—most enslaved free blacks never regained their freedom.

Abducting free blacks for sale into slavery was outlawed in most of the United States. However  uneven law enforcement, the marginal rights of free blacks, and mounting demand for slaves after the end of the transatlantic slave trade made kidnapping an attractive and potentially profitable prospect that encouraged the creation of a reverse underground railroad.

Kidnappers gave their victims aliases to hide their true identities. In his personal narrative, 12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup recounts that he first heard the name he would be known by as a slave, “Plat Hamilton,” in New Orleans when it was called from this slave manifest (line 33) for the … [ Read all ]

Ansel Adams visits the National Archives

Today’s post comes from Alan Walker, archivist at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

A fellow named Ansel Adams visited the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, in 1941. Here’s a record–in pictures, of course!–of his visit.

Adams was at the National Archives to select and print images from the Mathew Brady collection (now in series 111-B and 111-BA) for use in the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit “Photographs of the Civil War and the American Frontier,” which would open in March 1942.

Here are notes from Vernon D. Tate, head of the Division of Photographic Reproduction and Research, regarding the benefits of a visit by Ansel Adams:

Adams came to the National Archives Building on that same day, and the next:

In September, he again visited, and printed his selections in the Archives’ photo lab. Here is the lab where he worked:

Photographic Laboratory, ca. 1938 ( 64-NA-301)

Read the MOMA’s press release and catalog for the exhibit here.[ Read all ]

State Dinners at the White House

Today’s post comes from the National Archives Office of Presidential Libraries.

King David Kalakaua of Hawaii was the first head of state to be honored with a White House state dinner on December 12, 1874, by President and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant. In the years that have followed, state dinners have come to signify the utmost respect for visiting heads of state. Each state dinner is a historic event with the power to cement friendships with allies and foster cooperation.

Months of meticulous planning go into a state dinner. The guest of honor’s country, culture, and favored preferences are thoroughly researched. The First Lady often chooses the décor and entertainment to highlight a certain aspect of American culture. Together, these considerations are translated into invitations, menus, guest lists, and entertainment. The results can be a form of diplomatic dialogue between the host and guest cultures.

In 1976, First Lady Betty Ford chose “light” as the theme for the state dinner honoring French President Giscard d’Estaing. The theme was inspired by France’s Bicentennial gift to the United States, a sound and light show staged at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Centerpieces were designed for each table using early American lighting items loaned from the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. These included a period lanterns, candelabra, and candlesticks made of tin, pewter, brass, and wrought iron.… [ Read all ]

“I was a gunner and a gun captain on a 90MM-AAA gun during World War II…”

Today’s post comes from Alan Walker, archivist at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

Now, maybe it’s happened to you: that “needle in a haystack,” “home run,” unbelievable find that blew you away, and brought joy to a researcher. We archival folks live for that moment.

Let me share with you one such moment from my career. During busy times in the Still Picture Branch, the processing staff can be called upon to help answer reference letters, or staff the research room. One day in early 1995, I was asked to help with the backlog of letters.

This one from Mr. Evan Evans looked promising:

A 90mm antiaircraft gun? No problem! We have tons of photos of various artillery pieces and vehicles in our files. Or so I thought.

I spent half the day trying to track down a decent shot of the antiaircraft gun Mr. Evans requested, and I came up empty. Then I read through his letter again. He and his gun crew set a record for downing 12 Japanese bombers over Rendova? Maybe they had been photographed after their feat; the military services are always on the lookout for a good story to tell the folks back home.

So I checked out series 127-GW, under the heading Rendova . . . and what do you know?

Needless to say, … [ Read all ]