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Tag: preservation

Constitution 225: Conservation and Re-encasement

 

In light of the upcoming 225th Constitution Day on September 17, I spoke with Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler and Catherine Nicholson, two of the very few people who have touched the Constitution in the last century, about how they approached the task of conserving the Charters of Freedom.[ Read all ]

A warning from the Surgeon General about air conditioning

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 “during certain extremely hot days, the workers in the Archives Building will complain about the atmospheric conditions if the … [ Read all ]

NARA debuts “The Sailor and the Seagull” at Beijing film festival

This week, NARA will be premiering a film halfway across the globe in Beijing, China, for the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF). Our film preservation lab will be represented by Supervisory Motion Picture Preservation Specialist Criss Kovac.

“We rejoined FIAF last spring, and it’s required for us to send a member to the conference each spring,” Kovac said. NARA and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) are the only American members in the approximately 200-delegate conference. NARA and UCLA are tied for the largest film archives.

For the first time, NARA will be contributing a film for screening at the week-long conference. The theme this year is animation.

“We’ve digitally restored a title called The Sailor and the Seagull, a Navy recruitment film from 1949,” Kovac said. “We chose the film because it was done, at the time, by an emerging film studio called the United Productions of America.” The United Productions of America (UPA) was an animation studio that produced industrial films, World War II training films, and theatrical shorts for Columbia Pictures, including the Mr. Magoo series.

The film preservation team began digitizing The Sailor and the Seagull in January 2012, a project mainly helmed by Motion Picture Preservation Specialist Bryce Lowe. To give an idea of how long restoration takes, Lowe spent more than 80 hours restoring and cleaning up the 12-minute film.

“Film takes, on average, four times longer to restore in the … [ Read all ]

Aloha treatment for a 1954 Hawaii petition

The work the National Archives Preservation staff does every day is hardly “everyday.” A recent post about Hawaii’s petition for statehood on the Preservation Program’s Facebook page demonstrated this fact. This preservation project stemmed from a request from our Center for Legislative Archives. Each archival unit creates annual and long-term preservation plans, and the Center’s list named several petitions to Congress. One of these presented a challenge—a massive wooden spool 68 inches wide containing a roll of paper 16 inches in diameter.

This mammoth petition contains the names of 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood. Hawaii had been annexed by the United States in 1898 and became a U.S. Territory in 1900. Attempts at statehood over the next 60 years met opposition from both native Hawaiians and Congress. In the 1950s, the statehood movement gained momentum, and Hawaii became our 50th state on August 21, 1959.

This giant scroll came to the National Archives by way of the U.S. Senate. The Governor of Hawaii had presented the petition to the Vice President of the United States, who then (as President of the Senate) brought it before the Senate on February 26, 1954.

As an official document of the U.S. Senate, it eventually came down the street to the National Archives. It had been stored in a safe place, but over the years, the exposed outer … [ Read all ]