Tag: St. Louis
Today’s post comes from Sara Holmes, supervisory preservation specialist at the National Archives in St. Louis.
Just before 9 a.m. on the morning of July 16, 1973, the fire that had raged over five days was declared out. The firemen’s command post was taken down; engines cleared the scene; and 9700 Page Avenue—home of the Military Personal Records Center (MPR)—was returned to Federal control. Recovery work began, and consultants from the private and public sectors were called to St. Louis under the oversight of the General Services Administration.
Many problems were obvious from the start: there was no electricity; broken water lines continued to flood the building; staff had been placed on leave and needed a place to return to work; records requests still needed to be answered; the sixth floor appeared to be little more than rubble and ashes; and the millions of records in the lower floors of the building were still at risk for damage. It would take an additional week for staff to return to work in makeshift quarters and a contract to be awarded to demolish the sixth floor.
With water still pooling on every floor, concerns grew that the records on the lower floors would soon bloom with mold in the hot St. Louis summer. A thymol solution was sprayed throughout the building as a preventative fungicide. (Although thymol … [ Read all ]
Posted by Hilary on July 16, 2013, under Uncategorized.
Tags: air force, archives, army, Coast Guard., conservation, fire, mold, MPR, nprc, Peter Waters, preservation, St. Louis, water damage
Today’s post comes from Sara Holmes, supervisory preservation specialist at the National Archives in St. Louis. (The images below are from the National Archives at St. Louis, with a special thank you to Capt. Dave Dubowski of the Spanish Lake Fire Department and the late Chief Bob Palmer of Mehlville Fire Department.)
What happened after midnight on July 12, 1973, changed everything for the National Archives in St. Louis.
The fire was first sighted outside of 9700 Page Avenue. Minutes later, the first team arrived at the sixth floor of the building, only to be forced to retreat as their masks began to melt on their faces.
The Military Personal Records Center (MPR)—now known as the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)—was a huge building. Hailed as an architectural wonder when it was built in 1956, the building was 1,596,332 square feet, second only to the Pentagon in size at the time. Two NFL regulation football fields would fit comfortably within each of its six floors with room to spare. It had no sprinklers in the records storage areas and few firewalls in the building. Ultimately, it was a recipe for disaster.
Response to the fire was immediate. The North Central County Fire Alarm System logged the first alarm from the Olivette Fire Department at 0016:15 (15 seconds after 12:16 a.m), with a second call for … [ Read all ]
Posted by Hilary on July 12, 2013, under National Archives Near You, News and Events, Unusual documents.
Tags: archives, deluge gun, fire, firemen, nprc, preservation, records, snorkel, St. Louis, water damage
Over 5,000 requests for veterans’ military personnel records are received every day at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO.
Donna Judd spends each day carefully searching for valuable information for veterans in the documents left burned and brittle by the 1973 fire at the NPRC building. She looks for separation documents so that veterans can get benefits, and she sifts through damaged files to find information for medals.
“One record could take 5 minutes, another record could take 5 hours,” she says.
The fire that swept through the sixth floor of the National Personnel Records Center on July 12, 1973, damaged and destroyed millions of documents. These records are needed—often urgently—by veterans in order to claim health benefits, receive medals, or secure a military burial.
When a request for a damaged record comes in, the file is pulled and then sent to a triage area where the Preservation staff assesses its condition. If the record is heavily damaged, it remains with the Preservation team. If it’s damaged but the information could be retrieved with care, the record will go to Judd.
An average of 200 to 250 records arrive in her office every week. Judd and another staff member, Jeannette Crowder, and three part-time staff members—Wanda Dalton-Devore, Quintin Braggs, and Carol Berry—processed over 11,000 records last year.
On a good day, … [ Read all ]
This blog post is condensed from the article “Burnt in Memory,” by Marta G. O’Neill and William Seibert, from the Spring 2013 issue of Prologue.
By the time it was daylight on July 12, 1973, at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, one thing was painfully clear: the loss of records to fire and water was staggering.
The fire had swept through the top floor of the building just after midnight. At its peak, 42 fire districts were fighting it. The fire burned uncontrolled for more than 22 hours.
About 73 to 80 percent of the approximately 22 million individual Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) stored in the building were destroyed. The records lost were those of former members of the Army, the Army Air Force, and the Air Force who served between 1912 and 1963.
Up on the sixth floor, reinforced concrete columns had sheared off, causing the roof to collapse. Metal shelving and metal filing cabinets were bent and twisted by the fire’s heat. Bricks of ash remained where cubic foot boxes of records once sat. Aisles between shelving rows were filled with debris up to three feet deep, and several inches of water covered the floor.
Fire officials did not declare the fire to be out until July 16. There were no sprinklers or smoke detectors in the 1950-era … [ Read all ]
Posted by Hilary on July 10, 2013, under National Archives Near You, Unusual documents.
Tags: DD 214, fire, guest blogger, Marta O'Neill, military records, military service, nprc, St. Louis, veterans, veterans records, William Seibert
Congratulations to the recipients of the 2013 Research Fellowships! Fellows will be doing research at six of our archival facilities across the country. These fellowships are funded by the Foundation for the National Archives.
The National Archives at Boston
Claire M. Dunning, a graduate student at Harvard University, will be doing research for “Neither Public Nor Private Yet Both: How the Nonprofit Sector Reshaped American Cities.” She will look at the nonprofit sector at the local level at the end of the 20th century and will trace the relationship between Federal funding and local nonprofit organizations.
The National Archives at Denver
James Jenks, the lead historian for Montana Preservation Alliance, will be working on “The Northern Cheyenne Homesteaders of Southeast Montana’s Tongue River and Otter Creek Valleys.” He will investigate the location and property ownership status of 46 Northern Cheyenne families who, during the late 19th century, homesteaded on traditional land located on the east side of the Tongue River and in the Otter Creek Valley in southeastern Montana.
The National Archives at Fort Worth
Susan Burch is the Director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Middlebury College. For the final phase of her research project “Dislocated: Removals, Institutions, and Community Lives in American History,” she will explore the history of the Hiawatha Asylum, the only federal psychiatric … [ Read all ]
Posted by Hilary on June 26, 2013, under National Archives Near You, News and Events, Uncategorized.
Tags: 2103 Research Fellowships, Arizona State Library, Boston, Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, Denver, fellows, fellowships, Fort Worth, Harvard University, Loyola Marymount University, Middlebury College, Montana Preservation Alliance, Navajo, personnel files, research, riverside, San Bruno, St. Louis, University of New Mexico