April is Volunteer Appreciation month, and the subject of today’s historic highlight was not a staff member at the National Archives but instead served as a volunteer who led a major all-volunteer project on Civil War–era records: Budge Weidman.
From 1994 to 2009, Budge Weidman served as the volunteer project manager of the Civil War Conservation Corps (CWCC)—an all-volunteer project dedicated to preparing Civil War–era records at the National Archives for reformatting. Her husband, Russ, assisted her with the project, and together they spent thousands of hours overseeing dozens of volunteers who prepared the records for microfilming and digitizing.
Jane “Budge” McClintock was born on July 6, 1935, in Albany, NY. She attended Northwestern University and Katharine Gibbs College, and on December 29, 1956, she married Russell “Russ” Weidman. Russ was in the Navy, and the two moved around quite a bit. The couple had two children, and the Weidmans settled in Springfield, Virginia.
In 1994, the CWCC was established as a pilot project to help prepare Compiled Military Service Records of volunteer Union soldiers to be microfilmed. The pilot covered soldiers who served from the territories of Nebraska and Nevada. A call for volunteers went out, and Budge, who at the time was volunteering as a docent at the National Archives, stepped up to lead the project.
Budge led 19 volunteers who gave 1,258 hours of their time to prepare 63,309 images for microfilming, yielding 16 rolls for Nevada and 43 rolls for Nebraska. The pilot project was deemed a success, and it was continued and expanded.
During her 15 years as project manager, Budge worked on several aspects of the project, including scheduling and supervising all the volunteers. She also wrote introductions to the microfilm publications, lectured and wrote articles on the project and stories from the records, and participated in dozens of symposiums on the Civil War.
Budge worked on major records sets including the Compiled Military Service Records (including the United States Colored Troops), the Records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and the Civil War Widows Pension Files. Her work helped highlight Black veterans’ struggles and also the role of women during the Civil War.
The microfilm publications that resulted from the project made the records accessible for research at the various regional archives around the country and through interlibrary loan. Once the National Archives moved to digitization, the records were made available online.
In 2007, the National Archives created the Weidman Outstanding Volunteer Service Award to be given annually at the National Archives Archivist’s Awards ceremony. It recognizes exceptional volunteer service, and for its inaugural year in 2007, it went to the Weidmans.
Budge Weidman “retired” from the National Archives in December 2009 and passed away on July 16, 2010, after a long bout with cancer. On March 16, 2020, Russ passed away at his home in Springfield.
Thank you to all the volunteers across the agency, and throughout our history, who have donated their time to furthering the important mission of the National Archives.
To learn more about the project and the records, read Black Soldiers in the Civil War: Preserving the Legacy of the United States Colored Troops by Budge Weidman, which was published in Prologue magazine in 1997.