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Archive for May, 2012

The Iron Lady was not always so steely

Today’s guest post comes from Miriam Kleiman of the National Archives Public Affairs Office.

The National Archives and Hollywood again converge, this time in a lengthy Foreign Service cable, declassified in 2006. Dated October 15, 1975, and sent from the U.S. Ambassador Elliot Richardson (of Watergate fame) in London to the U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the cable details Margaret Thatcher’s dramatic political debut as leader of the Conservative Party at its Blackpool conference a week earlier.

Thirty-six years before Meryl Streep starred as Thatcher in The Iron Lady, Ambassador Richardson noted the “obvious anxiety” reflected in Thatcher’s voice. She delivered a “highly skilled and effective presentation,” but he notes that “perhaps as a result of her nervousness, spoke charmingly using a lower-pitched voice with an occasional Ethel Merman belt [my emphasis added].”  At the conference “Mrs. Thatcher was its undoubted star and gave a virtuoso performance in the role.” It is unfortunate that Hollywood writers missed this cable.

Sent from the U.S. Embassy in London, the cable’s subject line is “Conservative Party Conference: Margaret’s Conference.” Her speech was the conference highlight, following days of what Richardson calls “plodding through agenda.” Ambassador Richardson describes her talk in great detail, noting “Mrs. Thatcher was very nervous about her speech” and that she “approached rostrum with certain degree of apprehension, since she realized burdens on … [ Read all ]

Homestead Act still stirs excitement 150 years later

In the wake of the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act, the Exhibits Division’s senior registrar, Jim Zeender, and archivist Greg Bradsher flew out to America’s heartland to share a document that made it all possible.

Last month, they visited the Homestead National Monument of America, four miles west of Beatrice, NE, to install the exhibit. The Homestead Act of 1862 is a four-page document signed by Abraham Lincoln. Because it is written on parchment, the document is very sensitive to fluctuations in humidity. Great care was taken to ensure the case kept relative humidity steady as the Homestead Act traveled to Nebraska. This is the first time all four pages have been displayed.

“The Homestead Act is an important document because it opened the way for settlement of the west,” Zeender said. “It was an engine for immigration to the west, even bringing in people from overseas.” The act granted most Americans the ability to claim 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River as long as the claimants were at least 21 years old, lived on the land for five years, and showed evidence of making improvements. Its passage allowed 270 million acres of land to be settled in 30 states.

At the Homestead National Monument, Zeender and Bradsher were briefed on security, given tours of the museum, and gave a series of presentations on the Homestead Act … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest–May 23

Trying to choose a winner from last winner’s caption contest got us all tangled up! How could we choose between balloon references, Air Force One, and the horrors of flying coach? Eventually we had to hand over our judging duties over to Natalie Rocchio, archives specialist in the Center for Legislative Archives. Natalie knows how to pick out something fascinating: she is the blogging power behind Congress in the Archives.

Congratulations to Gary! Natalie choose your quote as the winner. Check your email for a 15% discount to the eStore.

Although this photograph might evoke memories of Mom or Dad chasing down the school bus and waving a brown paper bag, the man in this photograph is actually coming down, not going up. The photograph was taken during World War I: “Returning from a U-Boat scouting party. Aerial naval observer coming down from a ‘Blimp’ type balloon after a scouting tour somewhere on the Atlantic Coast. Central News Photo Service., ca. 1918.” (ARC 533474; 165-WW-63C(10))

Today’s photograph has us back inside and firmly on (or even under) the ground! Give us your wittiest caption in the comments below.… [ Read all ]

Can we say Happy International Museum Day?

Last year, I tried to get a discount on my entrance fee to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by explaining that I worked at the National Archives. The woman at the counter frowned at me. “The National Archives,” she said. “What’s there?”

The Constitution, a copy of the Magna Carta, I told her. It’s open to the public and they are on display.

“But is it a museum?” she persisted. They only gave discounts to people who worked at other museums.

“Yes,” I said. “Part of it is.” But as I walked away with my discount pass, I wondered, is the National Archives a museum?

Today is International Museum Day 2012 around the world, and I am still pondering the same question. I suppose the answer remains “part of it is.”

The National Archives is first and foremost, an archives. Our mission is to keep our holdings—billions of documents, artifacts, film, and recordings related to the Federal Government—safe and secure as well as accessible to the public.

The beautiful building that is downtown  in Washington, DC, is an active archives. Researchers enter on the Pennsylvania Avenue side and come into our Research Room to use original documents. Staff are busy in the stacks in the center of the building pulling records like Revolutionary War files and 19th-century ship logs. Volunteers are helping to digitize … [ Read all ]

Reagan Library puts 900 goats to work

For the next month or so, more than 900 goats will be calling the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum home.

“Last year, the Ventura County Fire Department broached the idea with us,” said Reagan Library Director and Herder-in-Chief Duke Blackwood. “We’ve partnered with them for more than 10 years with brush clearance. We’d bring in teams of people to do it, and it was very laborious and noisy. I don’t know how exactly, but the fire department was approached by these people with goats, and they thought they’d give it a try.”

An annual brush clearing is an important part of fire abatement because the library is located in a fire-prone area. The library took on 400 goats last year to clear 13 acres of brush around the property. This year, 900 goats will cover 40 acres. A portable fence is placed to move the goats around and keep them safe. A shepherd will also live on the property for the entire month to watch over the goats and make sure no coyotes or bobcats get them.

The goat program is organized and paid for by the fire department, so no special clearance is required to have the goats on property.

“It’s a very efficient and green way of doing it, and they get right down to the ground. You might say it’s not a baaaaa-d idea,” Blackwood joked.

All right, so these goats don’t … [ Read all ]