As a presidential advisor of African American Affairs during the Roosevelt administration, Mary McLeod Bethune formed the Federal Council of Negro Affairs, which would become known as the Black Cabinet. [Read more…] about Trailblazing Women: Mary McLeod Bethune
Born enslaved in Mississippi in 1862, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett dedicated her life to fighting for racial and gender equality. She was a journalist, suffragist, advocate of racial justice, and anti-lynching activist. [Read more…] about Trailblazing Women: Ida Bell Wells-Barnett
The National Archives holds a wealth of materials documenting the African American experience, and the contributions of African Americans to United States history and culture.
In 1984, to support the growing demand for knowledge of African American history, Dr. Debra Newman Ham, with the help of several other colleagues, took on the responsibility of compiling a guide to Black history records at the National Archives. [Read more…] about African American History At The National Archives
This episode begins our 4th Doing History series. Over the next four episodes, we’ll explore the early American origins of the Bill of Rights as well as the history of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment will serve as our case study so we can see where our rights come from and how they developed from the early American past. [Read more…] about How The Bill of Rights Developed
The National Archives and Records Administration has announced a fall 2012 opening of the new location for the National Archives at New York City—the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at One Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan.
“This exciting new venture will bring the records of American history to life through exhibitions, educational and research opportunities, an expanded research room, and public programs for hundreds of thousands of new visitors each year. We are thrilled to bring the National Archives to New York City – a location close to my heart” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, who formerly served as Director of the New York Public Libraries.
The National Archives’ New York research facility was on Varick Street in Greenwich Village for 20 years. The new location at the Alexander Hamilton U.S.Custom House will provide greater visibility and accessibility to the important Federal records originating in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It will allow the Archives to expand its research functions in New York and create a new educational destination in a building that already welcomes museum visitors through the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The new educational spaces and exhibitions are made possible by a public-private partnership between the National Archives and the Foundation for the National Archives.
Components of the National Archives at New York City, all free and open to the public, will include:
A Welcome Center to introduce visitors to the National Archives and the depth and diversity of Federal records. The Center will feature a small exhibition gallery with a changing selection of original documents from the National Archives, in addition to an opening exhibition in the grand rotunda of the Alexander Hamilton U.S.Custom House.
A Research Center for scholars, genealogists, and the general public to conduct their own research using original records and microfilm holdings with the assistance of professional archivists. Researchers will have free access to resources including online subscription services such as Ancestry, Fold3, Heritage Quest, and ProQuest.
A Learning Center to welcome school groups and families and to encourage them to explore National Archives records through workshops, school programs, online access, “Archival Adventures,” and more.
Exhibitions in the Alexander Hamilton U.S.Custom House Rotunda featuring holdings from the Archives. The opening exhibition, “The World’s Port: Through Documents of the National Archives,” opens September 21, 2012, and runs through November 25, 2012.
Public Programs in the Welcome, Research and Learning Centers and in the Alexander Hamilton U.S.Custom House’s 300-seat theater and lecture halls to highlight the nation’s history and New York’s special role in shaping the nation. Outreach programs will increase awareness of National Archives resources in New York and nationwide.
The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent Federal agency that serves American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, ensuring that the people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. The National Archives ensures continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of American citizens and the actions of their government. From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. The agency supports democracy, promote civic education, and facilitate historical understanding of our national experience. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries, and on the Internet at www.archives.gov.
The Foundation for the National Archives is an independent nonprofit that serves as the National Archives’ private-sector partner in the creation of and ongoing support of the National Archives Experience, which includes permanent exhibits, educational programs, traveling exhibits, special events and film screenings, and historical/records-related products, publications, and media. The Foundation helps the public understand the importance of the holdings of the National Archives by presenting the depth and diversity of the records through award-winning, interactive educational exhibits and programs. It generates financial and creative support for the National Archives Experience from individuals, foundations, and corporations who share a belief in the importance of innovative civics education. In addition, the Foundation has taken the Archives nationwide through online initiatives such as the Digital Vaults online exhibit and DocsTeach, a web-based educational resource. These components make the rich resources of the National Archives accessible to Americans nationwide.
The Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, completed by architect Cass Gilbert in 1907, is a magnificent Beaux-Arts style building located at the junction of the Wall Street Financial District and the Battery Park tourism district. Its exterior and interior are decorated with carvings, murals and sculpture, including work by Daniel Chester French, Louis Tiffany, and Louis St. Gaudens. The site itself is historically significant, from its origins as the location of Fort Amsterdam, the nucleus of what would become New York City. The National Archives at New York City will occupy space on the 3rd and 4th floor of the Custom House. The rotunda, auditorium and lecture halls are shared spaces.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), with the support of the Foundation for the National Archives, has announced a new program designed to give researchers the opportunity to conduct original research using records held at National Archives locations in Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Seattle. This is an opportunity for researchers to explore often overlooked records held by NARA and to experience what many researchers have discovered – that you do not have to go to Washington, D.C. to do research at the National Archives.
For 2011, one fellow will be assigned to each of the participating National Archives facilities, for a total of five fellowships. Each fellow will receive a $3,000.00 stipend to assist with travel and research expenses.
Stipend recipients will be expected to complete a research project that results in a publishable work product. In addition, within one year of receiving the fellowship, recipients will be asked to prepare a short report for publication by NARA that describes the research experience – the discovery, method, and use of the records at whatever facility the fellow is working at.
The use of social media tools to spread information about the experience is encouraged. Fellows will also be asked to conduct a staff briefing at the end of their research visit to share information regarding what was found during the research process.
Academic and independent historians, public and local historians, and writers are encouraged to apply. Current NARA employees and contractors or their immediate family members are not eligible.
Submit proposals by e-mail or mail. Either must be postmarked by NOVEMBER 15, 2010.
What to Send:
* A description and justification for the project, not to exceed six pages. This proposal should include:
o a description of consultation with a regional archivist regarding the records to be used for research (there should be enough records to warrant a research visit of at least one week);
o a listing of the records that will be used at the region;
o the proposed final product; and
o the significance of the project to historical scholarship.
* Please also include the following with your proposal:
o Copy of Vita (no more than three pages) including current contact information; and
o Two letters of recommendation
Proposals should be sent by mail or electronic mail directly to the NARA facility the researcher intends to use for the fellowship:
October is New York State Archives and National Archives Month, a time to celebrate and promote the rich and diverse documentary heritage of our great state by increasing public awareness of archival materials and repositories and by acknowledging the importance of our records keepers.
Archives are essential to the historical record and include a wide range of document types, including letters, legal records, transcripts, diaries, newspapers, photographs, reports, architectural drawings, manuscripts, artifacts, audio and video records, and materials in electronic formats.
The Palisades Interstate Park Commission has 110 years worth of archives in all of these categories. The PIPC’s archives are currently housed in a former naval barrack on the Iona Island Estuarine and Bird Sanctuary. The vast collection, which documents the creation and development of the nation’s first interstate park, is an important resource for historians, environmental advocates, and archaeologists. From the documentation of the movement to stop the destruction of the Palisades cliffs, the collection of statistics of multiple natural studies, to the reports and hearings that form the genesis of today’s environmental movement at Storm King Mountain, to the creation of its 28 parks and historic sites, PIPC’s archival holdings are a largely untapped Hudson Valley treasure.
Palisade’s archives are divided into four disciplines: Archaeology and Native Americans, Historical Photographs, Research Library, and Park History. Researchers, educators, and authors have used items in the collection for unlimited projects including books, films, newspaper articles, and lectures.
But like many repositories of history, the PIPC Archive is in serious need of improvement. Only generally organized, volunteers and funding are greatly needed for database entry, cataloging, digitizing documents, and general upkeep.
The Commission is grateful for its first archive grant given by the Nyack based Austin Stokes Ancient Americas Foundation in support of the PIPC Native American collection. This funding allowed the protection of this invaluable collection.
But, much more is needed. For example, of the approximately 100,000 photographs located in the collection, less than five percent have been digitized and catalogued. And the facility in which the archives are stored, originally a barracks from when Iona Island was a naval munitions factory for World Wars I & II, lacks climate control, a critical component in the preservation of any archive.
If you are interested in assisting the Palisades Interstate Park Commission to preserve and make available this unique collection, please contact Susan E. Smith, PIPC Research and Development Director, at email@example.com.
Photo: The Carpenter Quarry, Fort Lee, NJ.
The National Archives has launched its first public wiki called “Our Archives” on Wikispaces located at http://www.ourarchives.wikispaces.net. “Our Archives” provides a collaborative space for members of the public, researchers, and staff to share knowledge about National Archives records, resources and research. The wiki is an opportunity for researchers, historians, archivists, and citizen archivists to work together to create pages on specific records or topics as well as to share information and resources to connect with other researchers.
Users may participate in the wiki in the following ways:
* Create new pages and edit pre-existing pages about historical subjects and records held by the National Archives;
* Expand upon a description in the National Archives online catalog;
* Publish a transcription of a document;
* Add information to build upon other resources;
* Collaborate with other users working on similar subjects or to work together on research projects;
* Join in the discussions for various pages.
Joining the Wiki
Anyone is able to read the pages and join in the discussions. Contributors to the wiki will need a user login and password. To create an account, go to http://www.ourarchives.wikispaces.net and click “Join” in the top left corner, and follow the instructions. New accounts will be approved Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm.
Questions about the Archives wiki may be sent to Rebecca Warlow at OurArchiveswiki@nara.gov
For the first time, more than 300,000 case files on alien residents of the United States who were born 1909 and prior are now open to the public at the National Archives at Kansas City. These files, known as “Alien Files” (commonly referred to as “A-Files”) were transferred to the National Archives from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and are only a small part of the millions of case files that will eventually be transferred and opened to the public.
“The A-files are a key to unlocking the fascinating stories of millions of people who traveled to the United States in search of opportunity, including my own grandfather” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. “They include information such as photographs, personal correspondence, birth certificates, health records, interview transcripts, visas, applications and other information on all non-naturalized alien residents, both legal and illegal. The snapshot of American life that develops from each file can, in some cases, serve as a one-stop-shopping for researchers.”
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the predecessor agency of USCIS, began issuing aliens Alien Registration numbers in 1940, and on April 1, 1944, began using this number to create the A-Files. A-Files document the famous, the infamous, the anonymous and the well-known, and are an historical and genealogical goldmine. These files contain an abundance of relatively modern immigration documents in one file, making them a rich source of biographical information.
A-Files are eligible for transfer to the National Archives when 100 years have passed since the birth date of the subject of a file. These transfers to the National Archives ensure that these records will be saved and made available to the public. The National Archives at Kansas City will maintain A-Files from all USCIS district offices except San Francisco, Honolulu, Reno, and Guam. These files will be housed at the National Archives at San Francisco because of the significant research use of related immigration files there. Files to be housed at the National Archives at San Francisco are currently being prepared for transfer.
A-Files may be viewed in person by appointment at the National Archives at Kansas City or copies of files may be ordered for a fee. Additional information on requesting A-Files may be found here.
For more information about these records, contact Elizabeth Carrington, archivist, at 816-268-8093 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is an update from Roger Joslyn a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, regarding the recent news about the National Archives – Northeast Region, Manhattan Branch. You’ll recall that I ran Joslyn’s first letter of concern that the NYC National Archives was under threat on February 17th. I ran more news of the Archives move on March 15th. Here is the latest from Joslyn:
Thank you for the many responses to my letter concerning the possibility of losing our National Archives–Northeast Region as an important research facility. The response was overwhelming and I regret I could not answer all the many e-mails. I understand my letter was circulated pretty far and wide and some persons wrote me from other countries. Many of you conveyed good thoughts about the issue, telling of similar experiences, and several wrote to offer, “What can I do?”
My apologies if I missed sending first my letter to a few people who are receiving this one, and if so, please let me know and I shall send the earlier one if you want to see it.
The main purpose of my first letter was to let you know what I knew and had heard about the planned move of NARA’s New York regional facility. At the time of my first letter, NARA had put nothing out to the pubic about the intended move, about any reduction in space and on-site research materials, and so forth. As I then wrote, some of the plans were told to Stuart Stahl by NARA’s Diane LeBlanc for him to pass the word. So, “officially,” that is the best information there was at the time, but one might also still consider any of those details to be “rumor” at that point.
Since the first letter, NARA has responded, and I have been told or led to believe that a positive result of my letter was that it put things in action sooner than later. I have had telephone conversations with Diane LeBlanc and other NARA personnel about the move of the New York regional facility and I refer you (below) to NARA’s official word about the move and also to some NARA-prepared FAQs. As you will see, some of information is different and/or a little more detailed than what had been said and circulated earlier.
Also since sending my first letter, I have been able to visit what will be NARA-NYC’s new home in the Customs House in lower Manhattan. There is no question the building is a lovely place and, when the space is renovated, will provide pleasing accommodations for researchers, staff, and programs. NARA’s Public Programs Specialists Dorothy Doughty is quite excited about the possibilities for the latter, not only for large and small presentations and workshops, but also because there is room for (for example) genealogical/historical fairs and so forth, using space NARA will share with other agencies in the building. (And without a lockup in the building as there is at 201 Varick Street, the security staff in the Customs House is more welcoming to visitors.)
While there is no question the new location will be a nicer home for NARA-NYC for the above reasons, the amount of storage space for textual records and microfilm will be greatly reduced.
I would like to add from my conversations with Diane LeBlanc some additional points that are of interest and/or concern to us as researchers.
Ms. LeBlanc said that NARA-NYC is “going through a process” in preparation for the move, which will likely take place eighteen to twenty-four months from now. She sees the Customs House as having “enormous potential” for NARA. One example is that being near the Circle Line terminal for Ellis and Liberty Island visits, there is increased possibility to attract tourists to the Customs House and thus to NARA.
According to Ms. LeBlanc, NARA-NYC currently has about 40,000 cubic feet of textual records at Varick Street, but with limited space in the Customs House, only about 5300 cubit feet of records can be housed there. (The 5000 square feet reported earlier as being the total of the new space was a misunderstanding about room for the textual records; NARA will actually have about 20,000 total square feet that includes public and office space, storage room, and so forth.)
Apparently, NARA looked at a number of possible new locations and chose the Customs House as the best of the bunch. The main argument for settling for the much-reduced storage space is that patron usage is down. What cannot fit in the new space will go to a new storage facility in Philadelphia. Ms. LeBlanc says the off-site material will have the “same access” by shuttle to New York City that is now provided for other off-site materials. The frequency of the shuttle service is still under discussion.
Similarly, because of less storage space, NARA will also not be able to take all its current microfilm collection to the Customs House. Ms. LeBlanc says there is room for only about twenty percent of the film. What becomes of the other eighty percent of the microfilm has not been determined, but Ms. LeBlanc said there may be some possibilities for keeping it in New York City, if some other repository can take it. She thought New York Public Library’s microfilm collection nearly duplicated that at NARA-NYC. I told her this is not the case.
In order to determine what textual records and microfilm will likely be moved to the Customs House, NARA staff and volunteers will be “assessing” customer usage—what material, textual and microform, gets the most on-site use. (A large amount of NARA-NYC’s collection, mostly voluminous court records, is already stored off-site in Lee Summit, Missouri.) I reminded Ms. LeBlanc that much of the more-used microfilm is self-serve, that patrons take and replace microfilms themselves. This limits what staff and volunteers may be able to determine about usage. They are more aware of the usage of specific microfilms they must retrieve for patrons from the back “stacks.”
Ms. LeBlanc clarified that certification of copies of records at NARA-NYC will still be possible. Certifications needed from microfilm that will no longer be at NARA-NYC can be requested to be done at NARA-Pittsfield, or the microfilm can be brought in from Pittsfield to be certified at NARA-NYC.
She also said that over time, what textual records are actually kept on-site in the new facility could change, based on patron usage. For example, if there was increased call for ships’ original passenger lists, they might be brought in from off-site storage and less-requested material sent off site.
Two other things need clarification. First, volunteers will continue to be needed and they, in addition to helping patrons, will be involved with projects. There will be designated space for projects in the new facility, with textual records brought in from off-site for such projects as needed.
Second, the expansion at NARA-Waltham mentioned in my first letter is for public programming space. Some of this new space was formerly used to store microfilm, a large amount of which was given to the library in Plano, Texas, because, as Ms. LeBlanc explained, “no one else wanted it.”
I wrote my first letter in reaction to the response a colleague received who suggested to NARA that some of the more frequent patrons might be consulted for input about the upcoming move, records use, and so forth. The person was told that no one was going to tell NARA what to do. NARA staff has told me that, following former Archivist John Carlin’s attempt to move large amounts of material out of the regional facilities, that NARA has became more sensitive to public wants, needs, and so forth. So the response to my colleague was out of line and certainly was not good business. We expect better from an agency that has long been one of our primary repositories for the research we do.
Ms. LeBlanc agreed. In acknowledging that my first letter got NARA’s attention, she stated, “We will do this better than we did in the past.” The move to the Customs House seems set, and while my opinion is that user involvement before that decision would have been helpful and should have been sought, NARA-NYC is holding two public meetings about the move (see the announcement). I hope those of you who are interested in the move and have concerns and questions will attend. It is not clear if whatever is voiced at these meetings will change any of NARA’s plans at this point, but those of us who are concerned should go and speak up.
Here are just two of the many concerns about which some of you have written to me.
“It’s all online.” And many of us doubt it ever will be. But even with all that is available on the Internet, we have all experienced problems that take us back to the original sources, or at least back to the microfilm, for a variety of reasons, including legibility, printing, missed material, even speed. Can we be content with loosing easy access to what we now have so readily available?
Out of sight, out of mind, or never in mind at all. Ms. LeBlanc agreed that this is one area where NARA can use a lot of improvement. Many patrons have no idea what else there is beyond the Federal censuses, passenger lists, and a few other microfilmed records. With less microfilm in the public space for users to actually see some examples of what resources there are, there need to be ways of letting researchers know about the wealth of other records that might help them—microfilm and textual.
If NARA is willing to let its users work with them to do better and not just be informed of what others have decided, is that not a positive thing?
P.S. I realize that most people who learn “what we do” usually react with, “That’s very interesting!” or “My aunt was the family historian,” and so forth. But we also frequently encounter those who cannot fathom such an interest in the past. In these instances, I am always reminded of what is carved on the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., as you all know so well: “The Past is Prologue.”
This was brought home the other night as Leslie and I viewed (from Netflix) Masterpiece Theatre’s Shooting the Past, about a photo archives doomed to the trash and the staff’s struggle to save it. We were deeply moved and saw parallels with what has happened and will likely continue to happen in our field. For those of you who have not seen this wonderful BBC drama, I strongly recommend it. In the meantime, you can read a little bit about it at
and in this New York Times review