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Happy 80th Birthday National Archives

Today’s post comes from Jessie Kratz, Historian of the National Archives. June 19 marks the 80th Anniversary of the establishment of the National Archives. 

Eighty years ago on June 19, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation creating the National Archives. It was the culmination of a 25-year campaign by the historical community to create a National Archives building to house the national government’s records.

At that time, Federal records were scattered around the Washington area in inadequate and unsuitable storage facilities. They were neither organized nor accessible for public use.

War Department Records housed in the Naval Torpedo Station in Alexandria Virginia before being transferred to the National Archives, September 1935 Records of the National Archives National Archives, Washington, DC

War Department Records housed in the Naval Torpedo Station in Alexandria Virginia before being transferred to the National Archives, September 1935, Records of the National Archives
National Archives, Washington, DC

Supporters of a National Archives argued that those records—the written evidence of our national life and achievements—must be preserved for future generations.

In 1926, Congress took the first major step in creating a home for the nation’s records by authorizing construction of an Archives building. It was part of a massive public buildings project to provide office space for government agencies in the Federal Triangle area of downtown Washington, DC.

The Archives building was well under way before Congress created the agency that would occupy it.

View of the construction of the National Archives Building, November 2, 1933 Records of the Public Building Service National Archives, Washington, DC

View of the construction of the National Archives Building, November 2, 1933
Records of the Public Building Service
National

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Reflections on LBJ and Civil Rights

Mark K. Updegrove is Director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas.

The first time a sitting President came to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library was on May 21, 1971, when President Richard Nixon boarded Air Force One and journeyed to the campus of the University of Texas at Austin to help former President Johnson dedicate the library to the American people.

It had been a little more than two years since Johnson had yielded the Oval Office to Nixon, and Johnson’s place in history was very much in the balance.

The war in Vietnam that Johnson had escalated and that continued to divide the nation hung balefully over his legacy. This, despite the profusion of landmark laws LBJ left in his wake, including the passage of a triumvirate of seminal civil rights legislation: the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

As library’s inauguration played out, the voices of 2,100 Vietnam protesters rumbled in the distance, their chants of “No more war!” carried by 25-mile-an-hour winds that swirled throughout the day.

On April 10, 2014, when Barack Obama became the second sitting President to visit the LBJ Library, the weather, which topped out at 88 degrees, was far less tempestuous—and Lyndon Johnson’s legacy had become far clearer.

President Barack Obama discussed the impact of the Civil Rights Act. (LBJ Library photo by Lauren Gerson)

President Barack Obama discussed the

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On display: The Senate Journal of the First Congress

The first Senate Journal is on display from April 1 to April 16, 2014, in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building. Today’s post comes from Martha Grove, archivist in the Center for Legislative Archives in the National Archives.

“Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same . . .” U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 5

This year marks the 225th anniversary of the First Congress. On March 4, 1789, the Congress of the United States met for the first time. It was arguably the most important Congress in U.S. history. To this new legislature fell the responsibility of passing laws needed to implement a brand new system of government, defining the rules and procedures of the House and Senate, and establishing the precedents that set constitutional government in motion.

DSC_0010

The journal on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building.

The First Congress opened on March 4, 1789, in New York City. However, when the Representatives and Senators gathered that day, not enough members of either body were present to constitute a quorum. Elected members were delayed by bad roads and harsh weather. Some states had not yet held elections, while others had not yet determined the winning candidates when the First Congress convened. The House finally reached a … [ Read all ]

Celebrating a commitment to civil rights at the Johnson Presidential Library

Throughout the month of April, the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library will be exhibiting four cornerstone documents of civil rights. The “Cornerstones of Civil Rights” exhibit will run from April 1 through 30.

The exhibit will feature two documents signed by President Abraham Lincoln: an authorized, printed edition of the Emancipation Proclamation; and a copy of the Senate resolution proposing the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery.  

It will also include two documents signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965These are the four “cornerstone” documents on which modern civil rights legislation is enacted.

Civil Rights Act of 1964, National Archives Identifier 299891

Civil Rights Act of 1964, National Archives Identifier 299891

The exhibit links Lincoln and Johnson as two great civil rights champions in the nation’s history. Their conviction, commitment, and force of will to secure equal rights for all fundamentally changed American society.

In the exhibit are two hats owned and worn by the two Presidents—a Resistol beaver cowboy hat that accentuated Johnson’s Texas roots, and one of Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hats.

President Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat will be on display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library through the month of April. Photo credit: Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, Manchester, Vermont.

President Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat will be on display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library through the month of April. Photo credit: Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, Manchester, Vermont.

The exhibit coincides with the Civil Rights Summit, this year’s premiere event of a multi-year anniversary celebration of President Johnson’s prodigious … [ Read all ]

Greg Bradsher: Monuments Men expert at the National Archives

Robert Edsel, author of The Monuments Men, the book on which the film was based, will speak at the National Archives tonight at 7 p.m. You also watch online at Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/usnationalarchives. Edsel and a panel will discuss his books as well as the recent film adaptation. The panel includes our senior archivist Greg Bradsher.

The Monuments Men opened in theaters on February 7, but its origins began at our very own National Archives nearly 20 years ago.

Senior archivist Greg Bradsher has been at the National Archives for 37 years. Early in his career, he processed and appraised records relating to Holocaust-era assets. For him, the story of the Monuments Men is a massive treasure hunt spanning the globe.

“In the mid- to late-1990s, Holocaust-era assets suddenly became a hot topic,” Bradsher recalled. “At the time, I was the Assistant Branch Chief to Research Services at Archives II, so they asked me to become an expert since I already had the knowledge to deal with different researcher interests.”

The 90th Division discovered this Reichsbank wealth, SS loot, and Berlin museum paintings that were removed from Berlin to a salt mine in Merkers, Germany., 04/15/1945

The 90th Division discovered this Reichsbank wealth, SS loot, and Berlin museum paintings that were removed from Berlin to a salt mine in Merkers, Germany., 04/15/1945

His expertise came in handy when then-researcher Miriam Kleiman came to Archives II in March 1996 looking for records related to Swiss bank accounts during the Holocaust. Naturally, Bradsher was tapped … [ Read all ]