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Tag: National Archives building

Temple of Our History

On February 20, 1933, President Herbert Hoover and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover left the White House by car just before 2:30 p.m. with an escort of nine motorcycle policemen. Their destination was the corner of 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, to lay the cornerstone of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. The event had not been widely advertised, and the trip down Pennsylvania Avenue went largely unnoticed.

The ceremony was attended by a small group of officials including Secretary of Treasury Ogden Mills, whose department was overseeing the construction project.

The cornerstone laying ceremony at the National Archives, February 20, 1933. (Records of the Public Building Service, National Archives)

The cornerstone laying ceremony at the National Archives, February 20, 1933. (Records of the Public Building Service, National Archives)

During the ceremony, the President dedicated the building in the name of the people of the United States. He proclaimed, “The building which is rising here will house the name and record of every patriot who bore arms for our country in the Revolutionary War, as well as those of all later wars. Further, there will be aggregated here the most sacred documents of our history, the originals of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution of the United States. Here will be preserved all the other records that bind State to State and the hearts of all our people in an indissoluble union.”

Hoover continued, “The romance of our history … [ Read all ]

Doors of Monumental Proportions

Today’s post comes from Jessie Kratz, Historian of the National Archives.

On June 24 at noon, the National Archives celebrates its anniversary with a special film event: From the Vaults: 80th Anniversary of the National Archives

Constitution Avenue Entrance with doors closed, June 13, 1936, 64-NA-79, Records of the National Archives

Constitution Avenue Entrance with doors closed, 6/13/1936. (National Archives Identifier 7820634)

If you have ever visited the National Archives in Washington, DC, you may have noticed two very, very large bronze doors that mark the original Constitution Avenue entrance to the building. Visitors enter through the Constitution Avenue entrance to view the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights as well as the many other exhibits the National Archives Museum offers.

Constitution Avenue Foyer, doors closed, Jan. 12, 1936, Records of the National Archives

Constitution Avenue Foyer, doors closed, 1/12/1936. (National Archives Identifier

These bronze doors stand about 37 feet, 7 inches high and are 10 feet wide and 11 inches thick. Each weighs roughly 6.5 tons. The building’s architect, John Russell Pope, understanding the national significance of the structure, sought to design a public exhibition hall of monumental proportions. As a reminder to visitors of the importance of the building’s purpose, the public exhibition hall Pope designed—the rotunda—measures 75 feet high; the bronze doors leading into the exhibition hall match that in size and character.

Constitution Avenue Entrance and Pediment, Jan. 12, 1936, 64-NA-39, Records of the National Archives

Constitution Avenue Entrance and Pediment, 1/12/1936. (National Archives Identifier 7820626)

The doors were first opened on October 18, 1935. Then visitors to the National Archives … [ Read all ]

A warning from the Surgeon General about air conditioning

Letter from the Surgeon General regarding air conditioning at the National Archives, page 1 (holdings of the National Archives)

Rick Blondo, management and program analyst at the National Archives, reflects on the logistics of maintaining records in the sweltering humidity that is summer in Washington, DC.

Summer in Washington can be a wilting experience for tourists and locals alike, but not so for the holdings maintained in the National Archives.

The National Archives was one of the first buildings in Washington with air conditioning. The building was designed in the 1930s to safeguard the records of the United States in an environment suited to that purpose.

The vault-like structure included an air conditioning system that could maintain 70 degrees in winter and 80 degrees in summer throughout the entire building. Relative humidity was kept at 55 percent in stacks and 45 percent in workrooms.

The holdings collected in the stacks would be cool, but officials wondered if the relatively cool air elsewhere in the building would pose a health problem to staff.

Louis A. Simon, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on the National Archives, asked the Surgeon General to provide an opinion about whether exposure to conditioned air (and also a high amount of artificial lighting) posed a health risk to those who would work in the building.

The Surgeon General, H.S. Cumming, determined that … [ Read all ]