FDR’s White House Map Room

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts highlighting our “Archives Across America.” Today’s post comes from Sarah Navins from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York. 

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Al Cornelius in the White House Map Room, ca. 1943. (FDR Library, National Archives)

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s mind saw in maps. His love of maps can be traced to his childhood when he first began collecting postage stamps. Stamps from all over the world expanded FDR’s knowledge and understanding of geography and the international community, a knowledge that he brought with him to the White House in 1933.

After the outbreak of World War II in 1939, National Geographic provided President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill with special wall-mounted map cabinets hidden by enlarged photographs.

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“Uncertain as to in what position lay the Peninsula of Florida”: The Official Record and the Loss of Flight 19

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts highlighting our “Archives Across America.” Today’s post comes from Michael Wright and Joseph Ryan from the National Archives at Fort Worth.

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Map of Navigation Problem #1, 1945. (National Archives Identifier 73985447)

On December 5, 1945, five Grumman Avenger aircraft, carrying 14 sailors and Marines, did not return from a routine training mission off the coast of Florida. This is a fact, and it is undisputed.

Unfortunately, that is where rational agreement ends, and the conspiracy theories begin.

Because the aircraft and servicemen were lost in an area known as the Bermuda Triangle, years and layers of rumor, gossip, folklore, and legend have relegated Flight 19 to the realm of myth. Continue reading

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One Giant Leap: The Apollo Space Program at 50

Today’s post comes from Garet Anderson-Lind from the National Archives History Office.

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President John F. Kennedy’s Special Address to a Joint Session of Congress, May 25, 1961. (JFK Library Digital Identifier JFKWHP-ST-M19-1-61)

Fifty years ago, one of the greatest enterprises in human history began: the Apollo Space Program. Through the collective effort of a nation, it was going to put a man on the Moon.

While many here in the United States are aware of the program, and even more with its zenith—the Moon landing—its origins, its technological victories, and the national pride the program as a whole brought are less well known.

The motivation for the Apollo Space Program and the goal of landing a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s originated in President John K. Kennedy’s speech to a Joint Session of Congress on May 25, 1961. Continue reading

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Perspectives from Electronic Records Staff

10/10 is Electronic Records Day! Use #ERecsDay to hear about the latest news and developments in electronic records archives. We’re holding a special #AskAnArchivist session on electronic records that Tuesday starting at 1:01 p.m. To participate, follow us on Twitter @usnatarchives.

Today’s post comes from John LeGloahec and Emily Graves from the National Archives Electronic Records Division.

John LeGloahec: I joined the National Archives in June of 2006 as an archives specialist in the Electronic Records Division, working on processing the electronic records of the federal government.

One day, I received a message from a researcher asking about some of our records, the Gorgas Hospital Mortuary Records (National Archives Identifier 570981). I spoke with a member of the reference staff, and she told me to go ahead and answer it. I was immediately bit with the reference bug. Within a few years, I had started spending half my time working on reference requests.

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A technician changes the tape on a data processing machine at Gorgas Army Hospital, 5/9/1983. (National Archives Identifier 6374580)

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Wedding in Rural Queretero

It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month! Visit our web page for resources on related records and how we are commemorating the month. Today’s post comes from Adam Berenbak, an archivist in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC. 

A stone wall, tortillas, and a somber stare on the faces of those framed in the photo.  It’s a wedding, a celebration in midst of poverty.  The image was taken by photographer Philip Decker in Queretero, Mexico, during the mid-1980s and was part of an exhibition in the Capitol Rotunda titled “Liberty in the Fields?”

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Wedding in Rural Queretero, 1985. (By Phil Decker, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives)

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Digitizing at Bush 43

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts highlighting our “Archives Across America.” Today’s post comes from Elizabeth Lanier, an archivist at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas.

Elizabeth Ad 4The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum holds 70 million pages of textual materials, in addition to vast quantities of audiovisual and electronic records.

While that is a large amount of material, only a portion has been made available to the public for research through the systematic processing of specific collections and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA requests are groupings of records from across the library’s holdings that have been processed in response to topical requests from an individual. Continue reading

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American Archives Month: Archives Across America

October is American Archives Month! Keep up to date with all our activities on our American Archives Month website

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National Archives staff member Dolores Merritt in the stacks in Washington, DC, 1974. (National Archives Identifier 35810423)

Each year in October we celebrate American Archives Month to raise awareness about the value of archives and archivists. This year we’re celebrating “Archives Across America” by taking a closer look at all the National Archives nationwide.

Throughout the month, our Pieces of History blog will be featuring a series of guest blogs from our staff around the country.

October 4 on Twitter is #AskAnArchivist Day, when staff from across the nation, including our Presidential Libraries, answer questions and talk about what it’s like to be an archivist at the National Archives.

Then join us on Twitter from 1 to 2 p.m. EDT every following Tuesday throughout the month for mini #AskAnArchivist sessions, when staff from across the nation will be answering questions about their collections. Visit the events section of our American Archives Month website for a full schedule.

And 10/10 is Electronic Records Day! Use #ERecsDay to hear about the latest news and developments in electronic records archives. We’ll hold a special #AskAnArchivist session on electronic records that Tuesday starting at 1:01 p.m.

Follow us on Twitter @usnatarchives for more information.

And don’t miss our annual Genealogy Fair. On October 25 the National Archives is hosting a live virtual Genealogy Fair via webcast on YouTube. Our free program offers advice on family history research in federal records. For the complete schedule and participation instructions, visit the Virtual Genealogy Fair web page.

We’ll be celebrating American Archives Month throughout October. Follow us on FacebookTwitterTumblr, and Instagram to find out more and share your favorite archives story with us. 

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On Exhibit: The “Yeti Memo”

Today’s post comes from Sanjana Barr from the National Archives History Office.

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Foreign Service Despatch 75 from the American Embassy, Kathmandu, regarding regulations governing mountain-climbing expeditions in Nepal relating to yeti (The Yeti Memo), 11/30/1959. (National Archives Identifier 24194175)

In 1959, the U.S. State Department received a curious memo from the new U.S. Embassy in Nepal concerning the regulations for Yeti hunting.

The Himalayan Yeti, a mythological creature often compared to Bigfoot, achieved international infamy in the 1950s. Western climbers ascending Mount Everest continued to report yeti footprints.

The “Yeti Memo” originated with the Nepalese government about two years before the Americans published it in English. It stipulated that the Yeti could only be killed in self-defense and that any evidence of the existence of the creature had to be immediately turned over to the Government of Nepal.

The memo also insisted that explorers who sought the Yeti pay a royalty of 5,000 rupees to the Nepalese government. In today’s currency that would be roughly $1,100. Continue reading

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Origins of National Hispanic Heritage Month

It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month! Visit our web page for resources on related records and how we are commemorating the month. Today’s post comes from Kate Mollan, an archivist in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC. 

It is in the tradition of our country to recognize, cherish and conserve the many cultural contributions of the people who have helped achieve the greatness of our Nation. It is high time that our immigrants and their descendants from Latin nations, as well as those citizens whose Spanish heritage and lineage within the current boundaries of the United States dates back to prepilgrim days, were honored in the same manner.

—Representative Robert D. Price (Republican–Texas) on H. J. Res. 1299, 90th Congress (1968)

On June 11, 1968, California Congressman George E. Brown, together with 19 cosponsors, introduced House Joint Resolution 1299, authorizing the President to proclaim annually the week including September 15 and 16 as “National Hispanic Heritage Week.”

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H.J. Res. 1299, 90th Congress, as introduced. (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives)

The purpose of the resolution was to give recognition to the Hispanic influence and the role of Hispanic people in American history. It called on the people of the United States to observe the week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

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Constitution Day through the years

September 17 is designated as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787! Today’s post comes from Rebecca Watford from the National Archives History Office.

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Constitution Day, September 17, 1956. (National Archives Identifier 12169242)

As the keeper of the U.S. Constitution, the National Archives has a long tradition of celebrating Constitution Day.  

After acquiring the original Constitution in 1952, the National Archives’ first major Constitution Day was in 1956—the 169th anniversary of the document’s signing. That was also the first year that Constitution Week was celebrated—a seven-day observance promoting education about the Constitution.

That year, the National Archives brought in an Honor Guard to watch over the Constitution during the week-long celebration. The Honor Guard was the 3rd U.S.  Infantry Regiment (“The Old Guard”), the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, which has served the country since 1784, even before there was a Constitution.

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