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Archive for August, 2012

Working at the National Archives: Inside the Ice Cube

Staff wear hooded parkas and gloves to stay warm while packing film in the Ice Cube.

Today’s guest post is by Bob Beebe, archives technician at the Federal Records Center in Lenexa, Kansas.

Where’s the coolest place to work at the National Archives? The Ice Cube, of course!

At the Federal Records Center (FRC) in Lenexa, Kansas, one storage bay stands out from all of the other rooms at our facility. It is a stand-alone room, equipped with state-of-the-art scanners and barcodes. And it is just a bit cooler than the rest of the center, checking in at 35°F in the main room and 25°F in the freezer. We refer to the room as the “Ice Cube,” and the items stored in the room are assorted types of film.

The staff members who volunteer to work in the Ice Cube wear parkas, overalls, and gloves to keep warm. We have three to four staff trained to work in the Ice Cube, and they are rotated on a weekly basis. Most weeks, a single person takes care of all of the work for the area with extra help for quality control checks and on the occasional day when we receive a high number of requests. We use barcoding to keep track of the more than 350,000 items stored in the 77,000 feet of space.

Scanning can

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Facial Hair Friday: Mustaches and Moral Turpitude

Francesco Zaccaro (National Archives, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service)

It was a long, hard journey to the United States in the early 20th century, but even a successful voyage did not guarantee that the immigrant would be able to enter or stay. Deportation was a threat. When immigrants were deported, it could be because of serious crime like murder or petty crime like theft. The files stated “excluded as a person having been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude.”

But how to stop immigrants from reentering under different names or identities? When they were deported, they were photographed, and their physical characteristics were recorded in writing, from their hat size to the condition of their teeth. (Only Chinese immigrants were also consistently photographed by the authorities, and they resented this suggested link between themselves and criminals.)

Why were these two individuals, Francesco Zaccaro and Dubas Wasyl, deported?

Zaccaro (“small, thin lips, medium chesnut mustache”) arrived from Italy on the SS Hamburg on February 17, 1907, and was headed to his mother-in-law’s house in New York City. However, he was deported and back on the SS Hamburg just three days later. He was excluded due to his crime of moral turpitude: He had served eight days in prison for “applying vile names to a woman.”

Dubas Wasyl (National Archives, Records of the Immigration and

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In their own words: Franklin, Adams, and Vergennes make peace (IId)

Mitchell Map of the British Colonies in North America, 1755 (ARC 2450020)

This is part of a series, written by Jim Zeender, devoted to letters written by the Founding Fathers in their own words and often in their own hand. Jim is a senior registrar in Exhibits.

Shortly after the diplomatic break between John Adams and Count de Vergennes, Adams left for Amsterdam. Once there, he worked diligently to obtain loans from Dutch bankers in the hope of making the United States less dependent on France, a task that took almost two years. Meanwhile, the Adams-Vergennes controversy was playing out in Congress.

Upon instruction from Vergennes, the French ambassador Luzerne appealed to Congress for Adams’s recall. Different factions in Congress also demanded the recall of Adams and Franklin. Fortunately for them, they also had their supporters and they retained their positions. Congress named Adams, Franklin, John Jay, Henry Laurens, and Thomas Jefferson as co-commissioners and issued the following instructions on June 15, 1781:

. . .you are to make the most candid & confidential communications to the ministers of our generous Ally the King of France to undertake nothing in the Negotiations for Peace or truce without their knowledge & concurrence & ultimately to govern yourselves by their advice & opinion endeavouring in your whole Conduct to make them sensible how much we rely upon

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