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“The Conversation”

In celebration of American Archives Month, the National Archives is teaming up with the Academy of American Poets. Throughout the month we’ll be publishing original poems inspired by the holdings of the National Archives. To view the poets performing their original work, visit the National Archives YouTube Channel. 

Transcription of John Glenn's Flight Communications, February 28, 1962. (National Archives at Fort Worth, TX)

Transcription of John Glenn’s Flight Communications, February 28, 1962. (National Archives at Fort Worth, TX)

Today’s poem, “The Conversation” by Sandra Beasley, was inspired by her personal connection to the transcript of John Glenn’s Official Communication with NASA’s Command Center upon his retry after orbiting the earth.

U.S. Astronaut John Glenn was the first American to conduct a manned space orbit of the earth on February 20, 1962, aboard Friendship 7. Glenn traveled for nearly five hours, going 17,500 miles per hour, 160 miles above earth. He circled the planet three times before heading back.

This is the official transcript of his in-flight communication with Mission Control in Florida documenting the events upon reentry.

Despite some touch-and-go moments, and potential problems with his life-saving heat shield, the spacecraft, which Glenn had to manually control, splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. Glenn, unhurt, was then picked up by the destroyer USS Noa off the coast of Bermuda.

The mission was a huge gain for the United States, which was then engaged in a the space race with the Soviet Union.

The National Archives has over 40 facilities nationwide. This document is housed within the Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the National Archives at Fort Worth, Texas.

For the entire transcript visit the National Archives website.

The Conversation

By Sandra Beasley

Fireflies, Col. Glenn calls them—
banging the capsule’s wall to prove
their movement. This
will be the gesture Hollywood

claims as history—how space
dazzles even the seasoned airman,
maddens like Titania’s touch.
The movie version sees

what he sees: Florida yawn, Delta yawp,
a sunrise inside every hour,
lightning over the Indian Ocean.
Yet the operatic soundtrack, paced

in gilded silence, is not what he hears.
Wonder-ese is not the language
he speaks. For this,
we turn to the transcript. Pilot

to Cap Com; Cap Com to Pilot.
This is Friendship 7, going to manual.
Ah, Roger, Friendship 7.
Pilot, Texas Cap Com, Cape Canaveral.

Cap Coms chiming in from Canary,
Canton, Hawaii, Zanzibar, India,
Woomera: every visual check
on the gyros, inverter temp,

every correction to pitch and yaw,
fuel, oxygen, Ah, Roger, Ah, Over.
Say again your instructions please.
Over. Do you read? Standby.

You can be honest. This
is Godspeed-less, workaday chatter.
This is not what you’d save if
the National Archives were in flames.

You’d grab those proclamations.
You would cart the Magna.
You’d roll up the Constitution
like a favorite dorm-room Van Gogh,

and run. But I’ve got this one.
Because in these pages
my grandfather lives forever—
a Navy captain charged

with Glenn’s vitals, stretching
his stethoscope across 162 miles
and 18 tracking stations.
I hear him in each pressure check.

I see him biting his lip,
leaning toward a bank of dials
while the retropackage breaks, burns.
No one knows if the heat shield

will hold. Captain Pruett
goes unnamed. This
is how history claims us:
not in the gesture of one but

in the conversation of many,
the talk that gets the job done.
We climb into the syrup-can capsule
to circle the Earth three times.

The miraculous swarm, we realize,
is condensation. The light
will wink at us,
flake and ice of our own breath.


The National Archives at New York

We are wrapping up our month-long celebration of American Archives Month with a post about the National Archives at New York City.

In 1950 the National Archives and Records Service (NARS), which was then part of General Services Administration (GSA), began a pilot Federal Records Center project. The original objective of the Federal Records Center was to provide a central depository for economical and efficient storage, maintenance, and servicing of inactive Federal records.

Federal Records Building, Brooklyn, NY, 1950. (Records of the National Archives)

Federal Records Building, Brooklyn, NY, 1950. (Records of the National Archives, RG 64)

As part of this project, NARS secured warehouse space at the Brooklyn Naval Supply Activities Depot, located at 29th Street and 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, totaling 50,000 square feet. The Brooklyn FRC received its first records in May, 1950—the records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The building that housed the original Brooklyn FRC, pictured here, still stands—it is now the home of the Metropolitan Detention Center.

The New York Federal Records Center moved in 1952 from Brooklyn to what was known as the “Federal Office Building” located at 641 Washington Street in Manhattan—at the corner of Washington and Christopher Streets.

Federal Office Building, (New York Federal Records Center), 1952 (Records of the National Archives)

Federal Office Building, (New York Federal Records Center), 1952 (Records of the National Archives, RG 64)

The FRC occupied 330,000 square feet of space on 10 floors of the Romanesque Revival structure.

Completed in 1899, the building was originally a United States Appraisers Warehouse; it is now luxury apartments named “The Archive.” The building is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.

In 1969 the National Archives established regional archives branches in 11 of its FRCs including the Washington Street building in New York.

In 1974 the Archives vacated the Washington Street property because it lacked sufficient fire safety standards. They began moving the Federal Archives and Records Center to the Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne, NJ.

The FRC was located in Bayonne until 1998, when the Department of Defense decided to close the Military Ocean Terminal. As a result, the New York FRC needed to relocate.

At that time the center housed nearly 1.2 million cubic feet of records from Federal agencies in the New York/New Jersey area, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The Archives sent its nonclassified holdings to Kansas City, MO, and the classified records to the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, MD.

A view from the National Archives Varick Street Location, 2009. (Courtesy of the National Archives at New York City)

A view from the National Archives Varick Street Location, 2009. (Courtesy of the National Archives at New York City)

In 1992 the National Archives moved its Federal Archives from Bayonne to a new downtown location on Varick Street, not far from the Washington Street FRC location.

At Varick Street the National Archives occupied space on the 12th floor—with spectacular views.

In 2009 the National Archives began plans to move the National Archives at New York into the Alexander Hamilton Custom House Building at One Bowling Green in lower Manhattan.

The Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House building was completed in 1907 and served as the Custom House for the port of New York until 1973, when the U.S. Customs Service moved to the World Trade Center.

In 2013, after months of delay caused by Hurricane Sandy, the National Archives at New York City opened its new research, education, and exhibition facility on the third floor of the Custom House Building.

Alexander Hamilton Custom House Building, New York City, 2014. (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives History Office)

Alexander Hamilton Custom House Building, New York City, 2014. (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives History Office)

 


“Mango Poem”

In celebration of American Archives Month, the National Archives is teaming up with the Academy of American Poets. Throughout the month we’ll be publishing original poems inspired by the holdings of the National Archives. To view the poets performing their original works, visit the National Archives YouTube Channel. 

17th Infantry head for action in the Philippine Islands. (National Archives Identifier 533179)

17th Infantry head for action in the Philippine Islands. (National Archives Identifier 533179)

Today’s poem, “Mango Poem” by Regie Cabico, was inspired by documents within the National Archives related to the Philippine-American War (1899–1902).

After the United States defeated Spain in the 1898 Spanish-American War, Spain ceded the colony of the Philippines to the U.S. in the Treaty of Paris.

On February 4, 1899, just two days before the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty, fighting broke out between American troops and Filipino nationalists. Led by Emilio Aguinaldo, the nationalists wanted Philippine independence.

The Philippine-American War lasted three years. Approximately 125,000 American troops served. Of those, 4,200 were killed and 2,900 were wounded.

During the conflict, more than 20,000 Filipino troops were killed, and as many as 200,000 Filipino civilians died from violence, famine, and disease.

Despite a proclamation by President Theodore Roosevelt announcing the end to the war in 1902, intermittent fighting continued throughout America’s rule over the colony. In 1946 the Philippines gained independence from the United States.

Read our Prologue article for more information on records at the National Archives related to the Philippine-American War.

MANGO POEM

By Regie Cabico 

Mother fetches the fruit from the mango grove
…….behind closed bamboo.
…….Rips its paper-leather cover during midday recess,
before English class, describes their dance
peaches plums cantaloupes before my first-world
…….eyes. When the sun blazed on the dust,

she let the mellifluous fluids
…….fall on her assignment books.
Where the mangos were first planted, mother,
an infant, hid under gravel
swaddled by Lola, my grandmother,
after my mother’s aunt and uncle
were tied to the trunk
…….and stabbed
by the Japanese. Mother and daughter living off
…….fallen mangos, the pits planted in darkness,
…….before I was born.

We left the Philippines
…….for California dodging
U.S. Customs with the forbidden fruit,
…….thinking who’d deprive mother of her mangos.
Head down, my father denies that we have perishable
…….foods, waving passports in the still air,
motioning for us
…….to proceed towards the terminal.
Behind a long line of travelers,

my sisters surround mother
like shoji screens as she hides the newspaper-covered
…….fruit between her legs. Mangos sleeping
in the hammock of her skirt, a brilliant batik
…….billowing from the motion
of airline caddies pushing suitcases
…….on metal carts.

We walk around mother
…….forming a crucifix where she was center.
On the plane as we cross time zones, mom unwraps
her ripe mangos, the ones from the tree Lola planted
before she gave birth to my mother,

the daughter that left home to be a nurse
in the States,
…….who’d marry a Filipino navy man
…….and have three children of her own. Mother eating
the fruit whose juices rain
…….over deserts and cornfields


“In the Event”

In celebration of American Archives Month, the National Archives is teaming up with the Academy of American Poets. Throughout the month we’ll be publishing original poems inspired by the holdings of the National Archives. To view the poets performing their original work, visit the National Archives YouTube Channel.

"Original Wright Brothers 1903 Aeroplane (‘Kitty Hawk’) in first flight, December 17, 1903. (National Archives Identifier 7580929)

“Original Wright Brothers 1903 Aeroplane (‘Kitty Hawk’) in first flight, December 17, 1903. (National Archives Identifier 7580929)

Today’s poem, “In the Event” by Joshua Weiner, was inspired by a photograph of the Wright Brothers’ original aeroplane during its first flight in 1903.

Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright began experimenting with aviation in 1896 at their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They first began with manned gliders and traveled to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1900 to test their crafts.

They chose Kitty Hawk because it had regular breezes and soft surfaces ideal for landing.

After multiple successful flights with the glider, they decide explore the possibility of engine powered aircraft. They designed and built their own craft, and on December 17, 1903, Orville piloted the first powered airplane.

This photo, taken by John T. Daniel of the Life-Saving Service, documented that historic first flight. Orville and his plane soared 20 feet above the beach. The flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet of ground.

The original caption reads: Original Wright Brothers’ 1903 Aeroplane (“Kitty Hawk”) in first flight, December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, N.C. Orville Wright at controls. Wilbur Wright standing at right. (first flight was 12 seconds).

Because the Wright brothers came in contact with multiple government agencies, the National Archives holdings include many significant records relating to their efforts in early aviation.

Agencies such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the U.S. Life-Saving Service, the U.S. Army Signal Corps, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the U.S. Weather Bureau, and the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics are all held within the National Archives nationwide holdings.


In the Event

By Joshua Weiner

If you are sitting in an exit row please identify yourself to a crew member to allow for reseating if you lack the ability to read, speak, or understand the language, or the graphic form, or the ability to understand oral crew commands in the language specified. You maybe understand this but will you understand how to comply with these instructions, the instructions of our crew, who are fully authorized, and all the illuminated signs posted throughout the cabin?  Please locate them now.

If you are sitting in an exit row and unlikely if needed to perform one or more of the applicable functions then you must de-select yourself because only you know, finally, if you lack sufficient mobility, strength, dexterity to reach, grasp, push, pull, turn, shove, lift out, hold, deposit nearby, maneuver over the seatbacks to the next row objects the size and weight of over-wing window door exits, remove, reach, maintain, balance, stabilize, exit, and assist others.

You may lack capacities, have conditions, or be otherwise compromised, for example if you are traveling with a pet container that contains a service animal or emotional support animal. You may feel yourself supportive, and of course that’s good, super, if you can perform the functions: locate, recognize, comprehend, operate, assess, follow, stow, secure, pass expeditiously, deploy, select, but most of all you need to want to, and if you do not no reason need be given, because what reason is there to not want to help on this long flight should something go wrong, terribly, obviously, or subtly, as when you ask for water and no water arrives then you haven’t been heard, Wilbur is lost to the frise aileron, the flight cannot in your mind continue, I mean you cannot adjust the airflow, temperature, cargo storage space is limited to what it is, there’s no room for more.

But why isn’t there? says Orville. Space is infinite, the limits of the plane are inside us as we are inside nowhere luggage shifting around the bags inside bags making, in fact, more room: ‘clarification through expansion’ writes the soul in paraphrase, and even as you make a very short turn, you never feel the sensation of being thrownbut find yourself facing where you started from. The objects on the ground seem to be moving fasterthough you perceive no change in the force of the wind on your face. You know then you are traveling with the wind, the capacity of the ordinary opening beyond belief.

If you put your hand to the window now you feel the deep cold out there where no one is no one wants to be or can be even and this we know before experience and the expertise of those who learn from manuals you’ve never held, never located, recognized, assessed, or followed. You may think that to help anyone you must be with no one that requires your care you must be willing to do all of these things by yourself and without harming yourself to be able to reach up, sideways, and down.

But your condition is not the event of an evacuation, but rather the capacities you lack to be an emotional animal going somewhere a great distance, past every echelon, to a place without command; an elevation, a knowledge, a knack tuning the instrument to its final pitch & yaw.  When you look out the window what do you see?  The plane is probably flying level. But should the pilot find himself unable, or you do, you can take control by reaching over and holding the yoke in such a manner that miniature wings in the indicator stay parallel with the artificial horizon.  Pulling back will send you higher where feeling becomes pronounced. That’s okay, lift should be equal, the door won’t open even if you yank on it due to the pressure. Soon enough however, but not too soon; dream flowers drawn by moving veils is power (though naught be fairer than a dying nebula). With time you understand, there are stars in the universe cold enough to be touched by the human hand.

 


“The Documents”

In celebration of American Archives Month, the National Archives is teaming up with the Academy of American Poets. Throughout the month we’ll be publishing original poems inspired by the holdings of the National Archives. To view the poets performing their original work, visit the National Archives YouTube Channel. 

Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, 2014. <br> (Photo by Jeff Reed)

Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, 2014.
(Photo by Jeff Reed)

Today’s poem, “The Documents” by Terence Winch, was inspired by his visit to the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

The National Archives collects, preserves, and makes available the official documents created by the U.S. Government. These records help us claim our rights and entitlements as citizens; they help us hold our elected officials accountable for their actions; and they help document our history as a nation.

The National Archives Museum offers visitors many opportunities to view and interpret our government’s records.

In the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, visitors can be inspired by our nation’s founding documents—the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and Bill of Rights, which are on permanent display.

In the Rubenstein Gallery, visitors can explore the “Records of Rights” exhibit to learn how Americans sought to fulfill the promises our founding documents or see a rare copy of the Magna Carta.

Or, walk through the Public Vaults exhibit for a behind-the-scenes look at the original documents housed in stacks and vaults of the National Archives.

Not in Washington? The National Archives has over 40 locations nationwide—visit our website to plan your trip.

The Documents

By Terence Winch

The Documents are weeping, fading,
fearing the worst.

They are the messages
that keep coming.
They are promises, dreams, hymns,
i.o.u.’s. Proclamations.
Declarations.

They are word-flags.
Language
security blankets.

You could wrap yourself
in their giant pages.

They want to tell us who we are
or who we should want to be.

They are sails made of speech.

You could navigate
the vessel of your inner life
with their words propelling you along to the horizon.

The Documents tell their stories
over and over, even when you’re asleep,
even when the dark government temple
where they are entombed has shut
down for the night. The Documents never
tire, never shut down. They never expire.

They keep up their endless arguments,
hoping to be heard. Take heart, they insist.
Resist your worst impulses. Fight on,
even against invincible power. Listen
to what we have to tell you, they say, ancient,
faint, yet stronger than a wall ten miles thick.