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Archive for 'National Archives Near You'

Burnt in memory: Looking back at the 1973 St. Louis fire

This blog post is condensed from the article “Burnt in Memory,” by Marta G. O’Neill and William Seibert, from the Spring 2013 issue of Prologue.

By the time it was daylight on July 12, 1973, at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, one thing was painfully clear: the loss of records to fire and water was staggering.

The fire had swept through the top floor of the building just after midnight. At its peak, 42 fire districts were fighting it. The fire burned uncontrolled for more than 22 hours.

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The Military Personnel Records Center after the July 1973 fire. Vast numbers of personnel records for veterans from 1912 to 1963 were destroyed or damaged by fire and water.

About 73 to 80 percent of the approximately 22 million individual Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) stored in the building were destroyed. The records lost were those of former members of the Army, the Army Air Force, and the Air Force who served between 1912 and 1963.

Up on the sixth floor, reinforced concrete columns had sheared off, causing the roof to collapse. Metal shelving and metal filing cabinets were bent and twisted by the fire’s heat. Bricks of ash remained where cubic foot boxes of records once sat. Aisles between shelving rows were filled with debris up to three feet deep, and several … [ Read all ]

A wedding gift for (history) lovers

Today’s post comes from Christopher Abraham at the Eisenhower Presidential Library. He answers a question each week on Facebook. This week’s special, matrimonial edition of Ask an Archivist comes from the Netherlands, and we thought it would be fun to post it in honor of the Eisenhowers’ 97th wedding anniversary.

“My friends Jerom and Natasja are getting married and I would like to give them something special. Since they are both lovers of American history and trivia, I’d love to give them some unexpected knowledge. I am writing a large group of American museums to ask if they could send me an anecdote, a factoid or a bit of trivia that surprises their visitors when they tour the museum; something that makes them laugh, think or realize a connection to American history they hadn’t known before. Would you please send me a contribution as well?” – Lambert Teuweissen

Wedding gifts run the gamut from appliances to zeolites (always appropriate for the love-besotted mineralogist in one’s life), but the gift of historical knowledge? Genius!

We think this is the first time that staff have been asked to contribute to the launch of a happy marriage, but we are confident that we can meet the challenge. This might be the start of a wedding registry service for history lovers if it goes well!

While that remains … [ Read all ]

Congratulations to our 2013 Research Fellows!

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2013 Research Fellowships! Fellows will be doing research at six of our archival facilities across the country. These fellowships are funded by the Foundation for the National Archives.

The Textual Research Room in the National Archives in St. Louis

The National Archives at Boston
Claire M. Dunning,
a graduate student at Harvard University, will be doing research for “Neither Public Nor Private Yet Both: How the Nonprofit Sector Reshaped American Cities.” She will look at the nonprofit sector at the local level at the end of the 20th century and will trace the relationship between Federal funding and local nonprofit organizations.

The National Archives at Denver
James Jenks, the lead historian for Montana Preservation Alliance, will be working on “The Northern Cheyenne Homesteaders of Southeast Montana’s Tongue River and Otter Creek Valleys.” He will investigate the location and property ownership status of 46 Northern Cheyenne families who, during the late 19th century, homesteaded on traditional land located on the east side of the Tongue River and in the Otter Creek Valley in southeastern Montana.

The National Archives at Fort Worth
Susan Burch
is the Director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Middlebury College. For the final phase of her research project “Dislocated: Removals, Institutions, and Community Lives in American History,” she will … [ Read all ]

My name is Harvey Milk—and I want to recruit you.

Today’s blog post comes from Michael Hussey, education and exhibit specialist at the National Archives.

What do Sean Penn and Ronald Reagan have in common? Probably not a whole lot besides Harvey Milk.

In 2008, Penn played the role of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk in the Academy Award–winning film Milk.

In 1978, former Governor Ronald Reagan, Supervisor Milk, President Jimmy Carter, and former President Gerald Ford all opposed a ballot initiative sponsored by California state senator John Briggs. The “Briggs Initiative” would have banned gay men and lesbians from being teachers or otherwise employed by California school districts.

Copy of the opening of Harvey Milk's speech that he sent to the White House. From the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.

Milk, who had been elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, gave a rousing speech at the city’s 1978 Gay Freedom Day celebration. In it, he challenged Briggs and others to reexamine American history.

On the Statue of Liberty it says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free . . . .” In the Declaration of Independence it is written “All men are created equal and they are endowed with certain inalienable rights . . . .” That’s what America is. No matter how hard you try, you cannot erase those words from the Declaration

[ Read all ]

The Papers of the Founding Fathers Are Now Online

Today’s post comes from Keith Donohue, communications director for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives. This post originally appeared on the White House blog.

What was the original intent behind the Constitution and other documents that helped shape the nation? What did the Founders of our country have to say? Those questions persist in the political debates and discussions to this day, and fortunately, we have a tremendous archive left behind by those statesmen who built the government over 200 years ago.

For the past 50 years, teams of editors have been copying documents from historical collections scattered around the world that serve as a record of the Founding Era. They have transcribed hundreds of thousands of documents—letters, diaries, ledgers, and the first drafts of history—and have researched and provided annotation and context to deepen our understanding of these documents.

These papers have been assembled in 242 documentary editions covering the works of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, as well as hundreds of people who corresponded with them. Now for the first time ever, these documents—along with thousands of others that will appear in additional print volumes—will be available to the public.

The Founders Online is a new website at the National Archives that will allow people to search this archive … [ Read all ]