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Tag: national archives

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 ]

A letter to the President—in Braille

Letter in Braille from John Beaulieu to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 10/1958 (ARC 594353)

This week marks the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The National Archives holds many records that relate to American citizens with disabilities. From personal letters to historic legislation, these records from the Presidential Libraries provide insight into disability history.

For the opening of the Public Vaults exhibition at the National Archives Building in 2004, public affairs specialist Miriam Kleiman was assigned to track down and bring to Washington some of the people mentioned in the exhibition. This is her account of her search for John Beaulieu.

I was intrigued by the letters from children in the “Dear Uncle Sam” section of the “Form a More Perfect Union” vault. One unusual letter in the stack interested me a great deal—a letter written in Braille to President Dwight D. Eisenhower by a young boy in the fall of 1956.

Thirteen-year-old John Beaulieu offered the President the following campaign stump speech: “Vote for me. I will help you out. I will lower the prices and also your tax bill. I also will help the negroes, so that they may go to school.”

The return address listed Perkins School for the Blind (Helen Keller’s alma mater) in Watertown, Massachusetts. After my Internet searches led nowhere, I called the Perkins School but was … [ Read all ]

In their own words: President George Washington

Washington at his inauguration in New York, April 30, 1789 (National Archives, 148-CCD-92C)

This is the first 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.

As a registrar in the Exhibits Division of the National Archives for over 25 years, I have had the good fortune to work with many dedicated professionals at the National Archives. It has been a privilege to have access to the holdings, including the rarest of the rare. However, I always return to my favorites, the letters of the Founding Fathers.

Some of the most revealing letters come in a series of records blandly called Miscellaneous Letters in Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State. Thanks to the irregularities of early recordkeeping, personal and official correspondence were sometimes mixed. These are draft letters or short notes with crossouts and annotations that illuminate the thoughts and work habits of the authors. The letters usually have to do with policy issues, but the topics are sometimes private and political. From the 1789 to early 1820s, there are hundreds of letters written by Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe.

In the official files of the early U.S. Government, we expect to find letters and memos on the subjects facing a youthful country: diplomacy, … [ Read all ]

History Crush: Lou Henry Hoover

Lou Henry posing on a burro at Acton, California, 8/22/1891 (Hoover Presidential Library, 1891-5)

It’s the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, and thousands of girls and young women have descended on Washington, DC, for the Girl Scout Rock the Mall event this weekend. It seems like the perfect time confess my own history crush, a woman who was very involved in the Girl Scouts: Lou Henry Hoover.

Actually, I am not the only person here at the National Archives with a history crush on Lou Henry Hoover. Mention this First Lady’s name at a meeting, and female staff members are practically swooning. Here at the National Archives, Lou Henry Hoover is cool.

What inspires such awe?

Lou Henry Hoover was a scientist, polyglot, author, Girl Scout supporter, and world traveler. She mixed  smarts, practicality, and adventure. Apparently Herbert Hoover was charmed “by her whimsical mind, her blue eyes and a broad grinnish smile.”

I actually knew little about her until I started working here and saw a photograph of her in the lab at Stanford University. My coworker was delighted to tell me about Lou, the first woman in Stanford’s geology department.

Rocks may not seem like the setting for romance, but the geology department is where Herbert Hoover met Lou Henry—he was a senior and she was a freshman at the still-new Stanford University. When Hoover finished his degree and … [ Read all ]