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Tag: national archives

Spielberg Film Festival: Saving Private Ryan

Steven Spielberg is being honored by the Foundation for the National Archives for his film legacy, which has brought history to life on the big screen. The National Archives is celebrating the award with a film festival, and Saving Private Ryan is the first film to be screened. Join us tonight, Friday, November 15. For details on the award and the times of the free screenings, go here.)

In Spielberg’s film Saving Private Ryan, a squad of Army Rangers search for Pfc. James Francis Ryan (played by Matt Damon) who is the last surviving brother of four servicemen. Seems like something that could only happen in the movies?

Unfortunately, history is stranger, and sadder, than fiction. Many stories of lost and missing brothers can be found in our records.

Twenty-three sets of brothers were killed on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The photo below shows a service jacket and salvaged service record, with Navy envelope, for William Wells. Wells enlisted at Kansas City, MO, on January 1, 1940, and died December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor after achieving the rank of Signalman 3rd class. His brother, Raymond Virgil Wells, was also on the Arizona and died that day.

Service record for William Wells. (National Archives Identifier 299693)

Service record for William Wells. (National Archives Identifier 299693)

Sometimes the decision to preserve these kinds of records means not treating … [ Read all ]

Furloughed Fed volunteers at local historical society

Meris Westberg lends a conserving hand at the DC Historical Society while

Meris Westberg lends a helping hand at the Historical Society of Washington, DC, during the government shutdown. Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Washington, DC.

When the National Archives closed its doors on October 1 due to the government shutdown, staff did not know when they would return to work. So Meris Westberg took her skills to the Historical Society of Washington, DC (HSW).

When Westberg joined HSW a few months ago, she had talked to the collections manager, Anne McDonough, about volunteering there. But the hours were similar to her work hours at the National Archives, where Westberg works on books and manuscripts in Hebrew and Arabic from the Iraqi Jewish Archives, so it didn’t seem likely she would be able to give many volunteer hours—until the furlough allowed her the time.

Westberg is a conservation technician, and so with the permission of HSW staff, she developed some short-term preservation projects that would benefit their staff and researchers. She created a Google spreadsheet of over 100 city directories from 1820 to 1900. These books were the “Yellow Pages” of their time, according to Westberg, and they are popular with researches.

The directories were in varying conditions: some were rebound and in good shape, others were falling apart. Westberg examined and noted the condition of each on her spreadsheet and did some light conservation work, … [ Read all ]

Looking for “Wikileaks”?

Can you search for “Wikileaks” on the National Archives web site? Yes and no.

On Saturday morning, November 3, we learned via Twitter that a search for “Wikileaks” on the National Archives web site archives.gov brought up an error notice stating that the URL was banned. However, even at the same time, a search for “Wiki leaks” in the same search box generated five or six search results.

The banned URL message was an error. We alerted our IT team first thing Monday morning, November 5, and the erroneous blocking rule that produced the error was removed. A search for the term “wikileaks” now generates over two dozen results.

However, while you can now search for both the terms “Wikileaks” and “Wiki leaks” on archives.gov, you will not find the Wikileaks documents. Wikileaks documents remain classified and are not in National Archives custody.

The National Archives holds only permanently archived records, entrusted to us by Federal agencies. Records that are publicly available in the National Archives research facilities nationwide and on archives.gov are no longer classified (or classified parts have been redacted). Each record in our search engines has been reviewed by our archivists before being digitized and posted online.

The National Archives promotes openness, transparency, participation, and collaboration. We appreciate this error being brought to our attention. We value public feedback and continue … [ Read all ]

Archives Spotlight: National Personnel Records Center

If you have served in the military or worked for the Federal Government, your personnel file is held at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri. More than 34 million files  are held in this facility, filling 2.3 million cubic feet of records on 385,000 shelves. There are 6.2 billion feet of paper in the military records alone.

The National Personnel Records Center building (shown under construction in 2011) includes 29-foot-high shelves for storing records. (Photo by Lenin Hurtado.)

About 600 full-time staff work in St. Louis. In 2011, the NPRC  received 1,093,522 written requests for records, about 3,000 requests per day. They have received about 889,283 so far in 2012.

This part of the National Archives provides vital services to veterans. Former servicemen and women can use the documentation in their files to receive veterans benefits (form DD-214), help with replacement medals, or receive a military burial.

Not all the records in the NPRC are held in the permanent archives. Records with a discharge date of 1950 or earlier are archival records and are open to the public. But records from 1951 are non-archival, so they are restricted for privacy. Usually only the veteran or the next-of-kin can access these files.

For historians, each pre-1950 archival records is a possible treasure chest. The Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) … [ Read all ]

Korean War exhibit in Seoul features National Archives images

Truman Library Director Mike Devine stumbled upon this Korean War exhibit while visiting his wife in Seoul, South Korea. The images used in the exhibit are from NARA holdings.

When Harry S. Truman Library Director Mike Devine flew to Seoul, South Korea, the last thing he expected to see was an enormous outdoor exhibit featuring photos from the holdings of the National Archives.

“In the last decade or so, we’ve had quite a number of researchers from Korea to the Truman Library to copy thousands and thousands of images. Still, I was surprised to see this in this big outdoor exhibit,” Devine said. “As I got closer, I was like, ‘Hey! That’s our stuff!’”

The outdoor exhibit was not co-sponsored by the National Archives but was the work of a private group. It showed the United States and United Nations support for the Republic of Korea in the aftermath of the North Korean invasion in June of 1951. The exhibit features more than 150 images from the Truman Library and other National Archives facilities.

The exhibit was held just outside Seoul's large governmental center.

The exhibit is on Seoul’s main thoroughfare in the city’s governmental center. Also displayed are the flags of the 67 nations that supported the people of Korea during the 1950–53 war and its immediate aftermath. It was sponsored by World Peace and Freedom United and is intended to … [ Read all ]