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Ten years after a call for help, Iraqi Jewish documents go on display

In June of 2003, the National Archives Preservation Programs received a call for help from Iraq. Sixteen American soldiers had found tens of thousands of documents and 2,700 Jewish books while searching in the flooded basement of Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters. The historic material was soaking wet.

And so Doris Hamburg and Mary-Lynn Ritzenthaler boarded a C-130 cargo plane and flew to Iraq.

“It was fascinating and exciting,” said Hamburg, Director of Preservation Programs at the National Archives. “We didn’t know quite what we were heading toward—but we were told everything would be fine.”

Materials being rescued in the flooded basement.

Materials being rescued in the flooded basement.

After Hamburg and Ritzenthaler arrived in Baghdad, they went to a warehouse on the banks of the Tigris River. Inside the warehouse was a freezer truck, and inside that truck were 27 metal trunks.

The trunks held masses of documents and books that had been submerged in four feet of water in the flooded basement of Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters in Baghdad. And although the contents had been frozen to preserve them, Hamburg and Ritzenthaler could smell mold when they climbed into the truck.

“Freezing is a common way to stabilize materials when they become wet,” said Ritzenthaler, Chief of the Document Conservation Laboratory. “They acquired a freezer truck—it was quite a feat in those days in Baghdad to find a truck and to … [ Read all ]

George Bush celebrates 89th birthday with colorful socks

Happy birthday, President Bush!

As a tribute to its namesake’s penchant for exuberant socks, the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation encouraged well wishers of George Bush, 41st President of the United States, to submit photos of their colorful socks as part of his 89th birthday celebration on Wednesday, June 12.

The George Bush Presidential Library Center staff celebrate President George Bush's 89th birthday by wearing exuberant socks. What kinds of crazy socks do you like to wear?

The George Bush Presidential Library Center staff celebrate President George Bush’s 89th birthday by wearing exuberant socks.

“We asked for sock photos, and we got them! It was wonderful to see the photos pour in,” said Fred McClure, CEO of the George Bush Foundation. “Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate. We can’t wait to see what socks you can find for next year.”

Photos were submitted from around the world, from friends, family, and current and former leaders. President Bush’s granddaughter, Jenna Bush Hager, submitted a photo of her daughter, Mila, in colorful socks. Leaders who contributed crazy sock pictures included former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley; Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi; and former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney.

Well wishes were sent by the White House, the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the [ Read all ]

Putting together a Presidential Library is a really, really big job

In 1939, President Roosevelt donated his personal and Presidential papers to the Federal Government, marking the beginning of the modern Presidential Library system that is part of the National Archives. Seventy-four years later, the newest Presidential Library holds more documents than FDR could have imagined.

The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum holds more than 70 million pages of textual records, 43,000 artifacts, 200 million emails (totaling roughly 1 billion pages), and 4 million digital photographs (the largest holding of electronic records of any of our libraries).

Collecting this material, cataloging and processing it, and making it available to the public was a task that began on January 20, 2009.

The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, accepts custody of the George W. Bush Library on April 24, 2013.

As a Presidential administration nears its end, the National Archives works with the White House and the Department of Defense (DOD) to begin organizing, boxing, and moving a huge amount of Presidential materials out of various locations in Washington, DC. All records and artifacts must be out of the White House by noon on Inauguration Day.

At the same time, the National Archives locates temporary storage in the area of the future Presidential library—in this case, Lewisville, Texas. Then the National Archives and the Department of Defense begin moving the records to the temporary library … [ Read all ]

90 letters in 90 days: The courtship of Lady Bird and LBJ

“I do believe before the day was over he did ask me to marry him and I thought he was just out of his mind.” Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor

LBJ sent this photo to Lady Bird during their courtship. The caption reads "For Bird--A lovely girl with ideals, principles, intelligence, and refinement from her sincere admirer, Lyndon" (Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library)

Two teenagers in love might exchange hundreds of texts on their phones. But during their two-and-a-half month courtship, Lyndon Baines Johnson and Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor were each writing a letter—and sometimes even two—every day in a constant overlapping correspondence between Washington, DC, and Karnack, Texas.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library is releasing love letters between the future President and the First Lady. Most of the letters have not been seen before by the public, and they offer a glimpse into the feelings and thoughts of the couple during this intense courtship.

It was a whirlwind romance. LBJ was 26, and Lady Bird was just 22 years old. They met in the office of a mutual friend in Austin, Texas, in September of 1934. Although LBJ had a date that night, he asked Lady Bird to meet him for breakfast. The breakfast date turned into a day-long affair as the pair drove around Austin.… [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest: June 28

“Are you sure this is the way out of Vietnam?”

We waded into your captions like a man driving a car into a lake! How to choose between splashy captions that referenced Secret Service men wearing floaties, the Aflac duck, James Bond, or water taxis?

Waterlogged with indecision, we turned to Liza Talbot, who in turn turned to the crew of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. Congratulations to John M. Dooley! Your caption was the winner, “chosen by majority vote by the entire archival staff at the LBJ Library,” according to Liza.

John, check your email for a 15% discount code at the National Archives e-Store!

So, is this car rated for water excursions? Well, it is an actual amphibious car. In this photo from 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson took a ride with friends in his Amphicar.  LBJ is steering his land-to-water vehicle into a lake at his ranch in Stonewall, Texas (4/11/65).

Today’s photograph features a vehicle and some unusual passengers, but no water in sight. Give us your best caption in the comments below!

Your caption here!

[ Read all ]