This Constitution Day tour is part of the White House’s “Of the People” series, which provides virtual field trips for middle school and high school students to Washington, D.C. for a behind-the-scenes look at the people, places and issues that shape and inform our world.
Join us live at 1:00 PM ET today and learn about the Preamble to the Constitution, get a short tour of the National Archives, and delve into the skills historians use to analyze primary source documents.
Our colleagues from the National Archives exhibits staff and the Presidential Libraries are fielding “Ask A Curator Day” questions at @USNatArchives and @ourpresidents on twitter with the hashtag #AskACurator.
225th Anniversary of the First Congress: We’ll be posting documents and stories highlighting the establishment of the new government under the Constitution through March 2016.
On August 31, 1789, a bill to Provide for the Safe Keeping of Acts, Records, and the Seal of the United States was introduced in the Senate. The bill was signed into law on September 15, 1789.
The Act set precedent for record keeping as an important function of the government. The Act renamed the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Department of State ( statedept) , and its leader was named the Secretary of State. The Act stated that the Secretary of State was to see that each bill, order, resolution, or vote was printed in at least three public newspapers in the United States; sent to each congressman and each state’s Executives; and that the original records would be kept with the Secretary of State. Finally, the Act established the Great Seal of the United States, and the Secretary of State as the seal’s custodian. Believe it or not, the Secretary of State still retains this responsibility!
Record keeping was a monumental task for the government. Each bill, order, resolution, and vote was kept and stored wherever space was found. This meant some legislation was stored in office basements or garages, some hidden away in file cabinets, some simply lost or destroyed, and almost all were poorly preserved. With the intention of this Act in mind, Congress established the National Archives in 1934 to properly preserve the records of the federal government.
An Act to Provide for the Safe Keeping of Acts, Records, and the Seal of the United States, and for Other Purposes, 8/31/1789, SEN 1A-C1, Records of the U.S. Senate
Looking back on past events is what all archivists do every day. It was never more frustrating to be unable to change that history than it was when I was processing these [the 9/11 Commission] records.
Ever wonder what the Preservation Programs at St. Louis does?…Watch this!!!
A colleague from preservearchives in action, circa 1942.
See more images from the National Archives then and now in the series on the 80th anniversary of the creation of the National Archives from earlier this summer!
To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the creation of the National Archives, staff from around the country submitted contemporary photographs of their workplace and people to show what we look like in 2014 for anyone interested now and in the future.
You can see more photos of staff at the photo set on Flickr
Images from top:
Mickey Ebert, Education Specialist; and Chris Magee, Archivist; practice “NARA and National Symbols,” a distance learning puppet show for kindergarteners with Hairy History and War Eagle, puppet at the Interactive Distance Learning Lab at the National Archives at Kansas City. Photographer: Jessica Hopkins. Source: US National Archives and Records Administration.
Audrey Amidon showing a close-up of acetate film in an advanced state of vinegar syndrome in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab at the National Archives at College Park. The film base has shrunk more than the emulsion causing the wrinkly surface you see here. Photographer: Richard Schneider. Source: US National Archives and Records Administration.
Brad Brooks, Brian Swidal, Laurice Clark, and Amy Bunk hanging up the seal of the National Archives at the Office of the Federal Registrar. Photographer: Jim Hemphil. Source: US National Archives and Records Administration.
Devon McKeown cleaning archival records at the National Archives at Chicago. Photographer: Mary Ann Zulevic. Source: US National Archives and Records Administration.
Ancestry.com contractor digitizes Los Angeles Naturalization Petitions at the National Archives at Riverside. Photographer: Joseph S. Peñaranda. Source: US National Archives and Records Administration.
Celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the National Archives with this vintage film, “Your National Archives:”
"This building holds in trust the records of the nation. It is the United States National Archives in Washington DC. Here are preserved the documents most cherished by Americans…”
This and other archival films are being shown today, Tuesday, June 24 at noon in the William McGowan Theater (enter the National Archives Building through the Special Events entrance at Seventh Street and Constitution).
How would you celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the National Archives? Build a Lego National Archives?
We stumbled* across this miniature National Archives Building during a recent visit to Legoland. It’s impressively detailed, down to the eagles along the cornice and the statues of Heritage and Guardianship on the Constitution Avenue side. (Don’t miss the real statues up close, circa 1940).
(*We didn’t stumble on them literally of course - everyone knows how much they hurt!)
We have to wonder, what other models of the National Archives building are out there?
In celebration of the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the National Archives, we present a selection of archival films including Your National Archives (195 minutes) and The Washington Parade: The Archives. (70 minutes.)
Tuesday, June 24 at noon in the William McGowan Theater (enter the National Archives Building through the Special Events entrance at Seventh Street and Constitution).
Image: View of the construction of the National Archives Building, November 2, 1933. Records of the Public Building Service, National Archives, Washington, DC.
See the rest of our series on the 80th anniversary of the National Archives Act!
The National Archives turns the big 8-0 on June 19. You may have thought the Archives was older considering our country is almost 250 years old, but it wasn’t until 1934 that President Franklin Roosevelt signed the National Archives Act (48 Stat. 1122) creating the National Archives as an independent agency. What, you might ask, was happening to the records before the establishment of the Archives?
Our records go back farther than 1934. Fortunately, agencies were keeping records, but in myriad places and under varied storage conditions. In 1935 the first records started arriving at the Archives and haven’t stopped. In fact, we have so many records that there are now 40 facilities across the nation to house all of them!
“Photograph of State Department Records Being Received at Archives, 1936” (Local Identifier: 64-NA-69 / National Archives Identifier: 3493230)
Eighty years ago on June 19, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation creating the National Archives. It was the culmination of a 25-year campaign by the historical community to create a National Archives building to house the national government’s records. At that time, Federal records were scattered around the Washington area in inadequate and unsuitable storage facilities. They were neither organized nor accessible for public use, as evidenced by this photo of War Department records in 1935.
War Department Records housed in the Naval Torpedo Station in Alexandria Virginia before being transferred to the National Archives, September 1935, Records of the National Archives. Local Identifier: 64-NAD-116-3
In celebration the 80th anniversary of the creation of the National Archives, take a tour inside the National Archives in this vintage Columbia Newsreel, which shows a variety of the records held and preservation techniques, circa 1940.
"In Washington the beautiful Archives building stands as living memorial to the patriots who made and preserved our democracy. It contains the living record their great works. Two fine statutes guard the approach. They represent Heritage and Vigilance…”
From the series: Motion Picture Films, compiled 1938 - 1941. Columbia Pictures Corporation Collection, 1938 - 1941
“AN ACT To establish a National Archives of the United States Government…
Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there is hereby created the Office of Archivist of the United States, the Archivist to be appointed by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.”
Act of June 19, 1934 (“National Archives Act”), Public Law 73-432, 48 STAT 1122, “to create a National Archives of the United States Government and for other purposes.”, 06/19/1934
From the series: Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789 - 2011
Eighty years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed this act on June 19, 1934, establishing the National Archives to centralize federal record keeping, with the Archivist of the United States (aotus) as its chief administrator. It was the culmination of a 25-year campaign by the historical community to create a National Archives building to house the national government’s records.
Beach Wagon Innovation
Tuning in the whitehouse Maker Faire today? We have makers here at the National Archives too - presenting Helen Beach and her eponymous “Beach Wagon”:
Helen Beach was an archivist in the General Records Division, and she was frustrated with trying to manage double-shelved records with the carts then available. So she came up with her own design. Her suggestion was forwarded to the carpenter shop, where the design was refined.
From November 1946 to June of 1947, the proposal was sent around to various divisions for comment. On June 9, approval was granted for its construction. At the end of October, the prototype was built and delivered for testing. By July of 1948, various units had tried it out and submitted their impressions of the “Beach Wagon” (as it came to be called), and Assistant Archivist Robert H. Bahmer approved a $25 cash award for her idea. And the story even made the papers!
Great ideas really are timeless. The staff at Archives I still use Miss Beach’s “wagon” to this day! When we support our innovators, great things are bound to happen.
This post comes via Alan Walker, archivist at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.
Record Group 64, A1 155, Case Files for Employee Suggestions, 1944-1949. Case File 147-S4. National Archives Identifier: 7541348;
Record Group 64, P 75 “Press Releases, 1935-1964″;
Other photos by Marie Maxwell, National Archives.
So, what brilliant ideas have you come up with lately?