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Archive for October, 2012

Archives Spotlight: George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Happy American Archives Month! Throughout October, we’re running a series of “spotlights” on the many locations that make up the National Archives. Remember, YOU can use the research rooms at our Presidential libraries.

The 13 Presidential libraries are part of the National Archives, even the ones that are not finished yet. The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is still in the final stages of construction, expected to end next month. The Library is set to open to the public in 2013 on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

The Library already holds over 29,000 cubic feet of textual records (over 70 million pages), 1200 cubic feet of audiovisual records, and approximately 80 terabytes of electronic records—the largest digital collection of any of the Presidential Libraries.

When it opens, the Museum’s permanent exhibit center around the themes of freedom, responsibility, opportunity, and compassion. The exhibit will use artifacts and documents from the Library. Other permanent features are a full-sized Oval Office, a Texas rose garden, and the Decision Points Theater, designed to educate visitors about the decision process and policies during the Bush presidency.

The Museum will also present temporary exhibits meant to complement the permanent exhibit and showcase the mission of the Library.

Online, you can find multiple photo and video galleries. Perhaps the most interesting is the … [ Read all ]

Archives Spotlight: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

Happy American Archives Month! Throughout October, we’re running a series of “spotlights” on the many locations that make up the National Archives. You can visit the exhibits or use the research rooms.

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa, has an unusual location. It is within the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, a 187-acre park administered by the National Park Service. The location is meant to preserve the wildlife and nature in the site and the Quaker community in which Hoover grew up.

Permanent exhibitions are organized chronologically in a series of galleries that showcase Hoover’s fascinating life and accomplishments. They flow from Hoover’s orphaned boyhood and youth in Iowa, to his success as a global businessman, to his humanitarian efforts during World War I. There is a section that discusses the enormous cultural and technological changes in the Roaring Twenties, which then moves into Hoover’s time as Secretary of Commerce in the same decade, his Presidential campaign and election, his role in the Great Depression, and his post-Presidential life and work. There is also a gallery dedicated to Lou Henry Hoover and her role as First Lady.

In addition to Hoover’s own papers and mementos, the library also contains the documentary legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Lane wrote the first biography about Hoover, a … [ Read all ]

The Real Widows of the Pension Office

Today’s post was written by Pamela Loos-Noji, a former volunteer with the Civil War Widows Pension Project. The National Archives holds 1.28 million case files of pension applications from family members of deceased Civil War Union soldiers. A team of more than 60 volunteers, led by National Archives staff, is digitizing the files and placing them online. Pamela will be giving a talk on “The Real Widows of the Pension Office” on October 16 and 18.

The reason I decided to volunteer was an article written by a friend of mine about her experience working with the Civil War Widows Pension Project. She wove a compelling story of the person at the center of her file and brought the relationship between a mother and her soldier son to life in a way that surprised me. I was hooked. I, too, wanted to find stories, have people from the past speak to me of their lives, and to share what I learned.

The years after the Civil War were right in the middle of the Victorian era. In my mind, Victorians were uptight, straight-laced people who did not express strong feelings and who acted in a very proper manner. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

In fact, I learned a lesson I thought I’d already learned about history. People are the same as they’ve always been. … [ Read all ]

Archives Spotlight: The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, was the first Presidential library built in the United States. President Roosevelt led its conception and building, and he is the only President to have used his library while in office.

FDR decided to build the library in order to preserve the documents he had written and collected throughout his life. Before Roosevelt, Presidential papers were considered the property of the President. The documents were taken from the White House by the President when he left office and were later sold, scattered, or kept privately within families. Some Presidential records eventually landed in the Library of Congress, but not many, to the frustration of historians. The Roosevelt Library and all succeeding Presidential Libraries preserve Presidential papers for the public and educate the public about the past. The public is welcome to use the research rooms at all 13 Presidential Libraries.

But the library doesn’t only hold President Roosevelt’s official papers.

While the library undergoes a major renovation to bring its infrastructure up to the Archives’ preservation standards, the museum is presenting the largest photography exhibit ever assembled on the lives of the Roosevelts. “The Roosevelts: Public Figures, Private Lives” includes nearly 1,000 images of their childhoods, family life, and political careers, as well as candid film shot by the Roosevelt family and audio … [ Read all ]

The Electoral College: Then and Now

Today’s guest post comes from Miriam Vincent, staff attorney at the Federal Register.

The founding fathers established the Electoral College in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens. However, the term “electoral college” does not appear in the Constitution. Article II of the Constitution and the 12th Amendment refer to “electors,” but not to the “electoral college.” —from the Electoral College website run by the Office of the Federal Register

Why do we have the Electoral College? There was a concern that even qualified citizens (generally white, male landowners) wouldn’t have the information necessary to make a truly informed decision.  Alexander Hamilton argued in favor of an Electoral College in Federalist Paper No. 68, with an opposing view coming from an anonymous source in Federalist Paper No. 72. (You can find both online.) Our Founding Fathers decided to give the States the authority to appoint educated, well-read electors to vote on behalf of their citizens.

As the Constitution makes clear, the States elect the President and Vice President; individuals don’t.

The Modern Day Electoral College: After only a few years, it became clear that that electing a President and Vice President from different political parties didn’t work as well in practice as it did in … [ Read all ]