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Keeping It All Together: Paper Fasteners at the National Archives

Today’s post comes from Alan Walker, archivist at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

In my reflective moments, I think about what has kept me here at the National Archives for all this time. It couldn’t be the bone-wearying monotony of shuffling heavy cartons of records from here to there, or the tedium of changing out old information systems and learning the vagaries of new ones. No, there’s something else that gets me in the door every morning. Fasteners.

You wouldn’t think that something so trivial would hold my attention for any length of time. And yet, paper fasteners play such a vital role in our daily lives here. Consider: when researchers open boxes of records, they will see the telltale signs—the double round holes centered at the tops of the documents, the pinprick perforations in the corners. And many fasteners are still doing their duty among the records now.

It is a canon of archival preservation that fasteners are the devil’s work; capable of doing lasting and disfiguring damage to their host’s integrity, they must be removed, and forthwith. And so they are. Textual processing staff at all National Archives facilities do this every day. Perhaps gazillions of the little buggers get the boot each year; here are some Acco fasteners awaiting  their fate.

My fellow staff like to collect the unusual … [ Read all ]

“I am a little country boy eight years old.”

Today’s guest post is from Sherri DeCoursey, who used the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library to find a special piece of history for her father.

For as long as I can remember, a photo of FDR and a letter have hung side-by-side in the den of Mom and Dad’s home.  The yellowed letter, written by FDR’s secretary Missy LeHand, was in response to a letter my father wrote the President in 1941. My dad—Forest Delano Roosevelt Ferguson—was eight years old in 1941. Dad will be 80 in June of this year.

As familiar as that letter and the President’s photograph were to me, what I had never even pondered until last year was what my father wrote in his letter to FDR.

While visiting my parents in the fall of 2012, I looked at the framed letter and photograph and asked Dad what he included in his letter to the President. He couldn’t recall the details. Who could after 72 years? I continued to ponder what my father as a boy might have written.

What would an eight-year-old Forest Delano Roosevelt Ferguson write to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt? Perhaps about school? The farm? Family or friends? War? What it was like to grow up in Arkansas? Would any parts of Dad’s personality that I knew so well as an adult be emerging or evident when … [ Read all ]

New York State of Mind–er, Archives

I’m beginning to wonder if we even covered the Civil War at all in AP History. Before joining the National Archives, I had never heard of the Battle of the Crater, did not know that Confederate ships sailed all over the world, and had no idea that the Civil War had a draft and you could get out of it. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Did you know that the National Archives is also in New York City?

As my colleague Rob and I attempted to find the entrance on Varick Street, we weren’t too sure it was there. The Archives at New York is in a big building that houses other Federal agencies, including a detention center. We finally found the correct door, got through security, and made our way upstairs.

Staff are excited about their move to the Alexander Hamilton U. S. Customs House. It’s an accessible, welcoming space near the departure port for Ellis Island, with room for exhibits. Imagine going to Ellis Island, getting inspired about your family history, and then stopping by the Archives on your way home to do some free research at the National Archives!

But for now, you can do that at Varick Street. We met with Christopher Zarr, who gave us a tour of the classroom, exhibit space, and microfilm reading … [ Read all ]