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.

Continue reading

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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.

Continue reading

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Hispanic and Latino Organization (HALO) at the National Archives

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Hispanic Heritage Mural, ca, 2003-2004 (National Archives Identifier 6190418)

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 Kathleen Brown, an archivist in the Textual Processing unit at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. She is also co-chair of the Hispanic and Latino Organization (HALO) Employee Affinity Group (EAG) at the National Archives.

The Hispanic and Latino Organization, better known as HALO, is one of several Employee Affinity Groups (EAGs) at the National Archives that staff may join. The general goals of these groups are to promote interagency collaboration, diversity, and inclusion, and to provide a sense of community.

Beyond these overarching goals, each EAG has individual goals related to the community that it represents both within and outside of the National Archives.

HALO exists not only to connect National Archives employees who identify as Hispanics/Latinx and their allies, but also to promote cultural awareness of Hispanic/Latinx culture in the United States, and the individual and diverse cultures of the many countries that comprise Latin America. Continue reading

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A Constitution Day reminder

Dear Federal Colleagues—on Constitution Day we here at the National Archives are happily tasked with promoting the United States Constitution . . . and you are too! Why? Because of an act of Congress that was the brainchild of Senator Robert C. Byrd (1917–2010).

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The Honorable Robert Byrd (left), U.S. Senator (D-Va.) and Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, March 9, 2006. (National Archives Identifier 6702111)

Senator Byrd loved the Constitution. He studied it in college. He recited it on countless occasions during his 92 years. He even carried a pocket version of it with him at all times. Over the course of his 60-year congressional career, he pulled out his mini-Constitution during numerous speeches and debates.

Byrd loved the Constitution so much that he founded the modern Constitution Day (although Constitution and Citizenship Day have long been celebrated). Since the Constitution symbolizes one of our country’s greatest accomplishments, Byrd wanted a holiday that not only honored it but also promoted it.

For Byrd, the Constitution was not just the piece of parchment in the National Archives, but “a revered and living document, capable of inspiring a nation to achieve seemingly impossible dreams and irrepressible hopes.” Continue reading

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George Mason and the origins of the Bill of Rights

Today’s post comes from Austin McManus with the National Archives History Office.

Come see our traveling exhibition, “Amending America: The Bill of Rights,” at George Mason’s Gunston Hall through October 21, 2017.

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Portrait of George Mason (Courtesy of Gunston Hall)

One of the documents on display in the Rotunda in the National Archives is the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Its serves as a prominent reminder of our right as Americans.

But the document that inspired the Bill of Rights, as well as its main author, George Mason, are lesser known.

Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, completed in June 1776, served as the basis for our nation’s Bill of Rights.

Mason was raised in a wealthy planter family in the Northern Neck region of Virginia. By his early 20s, Mason emerged as one of the wealthiest men of the colony and began a successful career as a businessman, lawyer, and public servant for his colony and, later, his country. Continue reading

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Last chance to see Amending America

Today’s post comes from Christine Blackerby, archives specialist in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC. She is also co-curator of the exhibit “Amending America.

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“The Bill of Rights and Beyond,” 1991. (National Archives Identifier 24520428)

More than 11,000 constitutional amendments have been introduced in Congress since the Constitution was written in 1787. What most of these proposals have in common, though, is that they failed to be enacted. Only 27 amendments have been ratified to become part of the Constitution.

So, what succeeded and what failed?

“Amending America,” a National Archives exhibit, invites us to discover the remarkably American story of how we have amended, or attempted to amend, our Constitution in order to form a more perfect union.

“Amending America” is on display in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Building through September 4, 2017. Continue reading

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Hawaii’s long road to statehood

Today’s blog post comes from Lily Tyndall in the National Archives History Office.

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Map of the Territory of Hawaii, 1915. (National Archives Identifier 25464219)

Hawaii’s journey to statehood was long and difficult.

For centuries the islands of Hawaii were ruled by warring factions. In 1810, King Kamehameha unified all of the Hawaiian Islands into one royal kingdom.

During the 19th Century, Western influence grew and by 1887 the Kingdom of Hawaii was overrun by white landowners and businessmen. They forced then-King Kalākaua to sign a constitution stripping him of his power and many native Hawaiians of their rights. Continue reading

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Total Eclipse of the Sun

Today’s post comes from Riley Lindheimer from the National Archives Public and Media Communications Office. 

On August 21, the continental United States will experience the first total solar eclipse in 38 years, a celestial phenomenon that has inspired awe in viewers around the world for centuries.

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Time lapsed photographs of the February 26 total solar eclipse from the Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge annual report, 1979. (National Archives Identifier: 25496903)

In anticipation of the event, the National Archives is sharing eclipse-related documents and photographs from our holdings on our social media channels. 

Although partial solar eclipses occur more frequently, total solar eclipses require the perfect alignment of the sun, moon, and Earth.

Observers in the “path of totality,” a narrow path of visibility, will experience a period of temporary darkness while the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, blocking the sun and its corona. Continue reading

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