The Men and Women Who Guard the Constitution

Since 1952, the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights have been on display in the Rotunda of the National Archives. In addition to the bulletproof and moisture-controlled sealed cases, the Charters of Freedom are protected by the National Archives security guards.

Hundreds of people filter in and out of the Rotunda every day to see the Charters of Freedom, but the guards never leave their posts. The men and women who make up the National Archives security force guard our nation’s most important documents.

We wanted to put names to  the faces of these important people for #MuseumWeek! Hailey Philbin, an intern in the National Archives History Office, spoke to two of our officers.

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Two security guards are always standing watch over our founding documents. (Photo by Jeff Reed for the National Archives.)

Lt. Bryant Bethes has worked as a National Archives security guard for 17 years. In addition to daily protecting the Charters of Freedom, he enjoys the crowds and diverse individuals who visit his work space. The most exciting part about his job is when celebrities, like Joe Montana, take a tour of the Rotunda. After almost two decades at his post, Lieutenant Bethes finds time to enjoy his job and interact with new crowds every day.

Officer Laurence E. Robinson has held his post in the Rotunda for seven years. He enjoys communicating with the many different people that visit the National Archives. Although it is not a requirement of his job, Officer Robinson shares his knowledge of the Charters of Freedom with inquiring guests. He answers questions about the documents when he can and helps visitors to better understand the history that he is protecting.

Thank you to all of our officers for their hard work and dedication!

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An Independent National Archives

April 1, 2016, marks the 31st anniversary of the National Archives independence. Today’s post come from Kaitlin Errickson of the National Archives History Office.

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Original Seal of the National Archives, 1934. (National Archives Identifier 23856513)

The National Archives has a turbulent history.

First, the historical community had to fight for years and years to establish a National Archives.

Then Congress passed legislation authorizing an independent National Archives only to take that independence away 15 years later.

And finally, the National Archives became officially independent again on April 1, 1985.

After years of pressure from the historical community, Congress passed and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation to create the National Archives as an independent agency on June 19, 1934.

However, in 1949, with goal of making the government more efficient, Congress transferred the National Archives to the newly created General Services Administration (GSA).

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Claudine Weiher: The Fight for Independence

The National Archives History Office continues to celebrate women’s history month. Today’s post comes from Kirsten Dillon. 

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Claudine Weiher, ca. 1978. (National Archives History Office Collection)

Claudine Weiher, former Deputy Archivist, was born Claudine Jackson on November 24, 1941, in Kansas City, MO.

Weiher came to the National Archives in 1966, where she certainly left her mark.

Weiher was trained as a historian and archivist, but at the National Archives she spent most of her career as part of the senior staff, working on managing and budgeting for what was then the National Archives and Records Service (NARS).

Sixth Archivist of the United States Robert “Bob” M. Warner recalled Weiher fondly in his book Diary of a Dream. He stated that she “was destined to have great impact of NARS during my tenure and even greater under my successors.”

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Dr. Elizabeth B. Drewry a Leading Lady

The National Archives History Office continues to celebrate Women’s History Month with stories of former employees. Today’s post comes from Kaitlin Errickson.

Elizabeth B. Drewry was a key member of the National Archives staff during her many years of service and became a leading woman in the field of archives.

Drewry attended George Washington University, where she earned both her B.A. and M.A. degree. She later earned her doctorate from Cornell University in 1933.

After a few years of teaching at Penn Hall Junior College in Chambersburg, PA, she joined the National Archives as a reference supervisor in 1936.

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Elizabeth B. Drewry’s National Archives Identification Card, February 3, 1941. (National Archives Identifier 12091139)

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Adrienne Thomas: An Amazing Archives Career

The National Archives History Office continues to celebrate Women’s History Month with stories of former employees. Today’s post comes from Sarah Basilion.

Adrienne Thomas receives an award from Archivist of the United States Bert Rhoads,11/30/1973. (Records of the National Archives)

Adrienne Thomas receives an award from Archivist of the United States Bert Rhoads,11/30/1973. (Records of the National Archives)

Adrienne C. Thomas began her career with the National Archives in 1970 as an archivist trainee in the Office of Presidential Libraries, after graduating from Iowa State University with a M.A. degree in American history.

She worked for two-and-a-half years with the Office of Presidential Libraries, and for four years as an assistant to Deputy Archivist (later Acting Archivist) James O’Neill. While working with O’Neill, who specialized in records access, she helped implement the Freedom of Information Act and battled the U.S. Census Bureau regarding public access to census records.

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Elizabeth Hamer Kegan: Educator and Innovator

The National Archives History Office continues to celebrate Women’s History Month with stories of former employees. Today’s post comes from Kaitlin Errickson.

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Elizabeth Hamer, 7/31/1951. (National Archives Identifier 12167572)

Elizabeth “Betty” Hamer Kegan was an archival pioneer. As a founding member of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and lead supporter of the Freedom Train, she sought to make history and archives more accessible to the public.

Hamer was born as Elizabeth Edwards in Copperhill, TN, in 1912. She attended the University of Tennessee and earned her BA in 1933.
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Follow That Banner

In the very top of the dome of the Rotunda, right over the cases holding the Constitution, there is a large opening called an oculus. In March, facilities staff lowered a cable through the oculus to hoist up a 225-foot-long banner that starts over the Bill of Rights, swings up into the middle of the dome, and then meanders out the door, along the hallway, and ends at “Amending America,” a new temporary exhibit.

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Visitors stand in front of the Bill of Rights

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Acting Archivist Trudy Huskamp Peterson

The National Archives History Office is celebrating Women’s History Month by featuring past employees. Today’s post comes from Sarah Basilion. 

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Trudy Peterson, 1988. (Records of the National Archives)

Trudy Huskamp Peterson was appointed Acting Archivist of the United States in March 1993, following the departure of Archivist Don W. Wilson, who left to head the new Bush Presidential Library Center.

She was the first woman to hold the position.

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The Not-So-Lame Amendment

Today’s post comes from Hailey Philbin in the National Archives History Office. 

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Joint resolution proposing the 20th Amendment to the United States Constitution, March 2, 1932. (National Archives Identifier 1410754)

The 20th Amendment is often referred to as the Lame Duck Amendment. It was passed by Congress on March 2, 1932, and ratified on January 3, 1933.

The amendment changed the date of the Presidential inauguration from March 4 to January 20. It also outlined the course of action if there is a change in President-elect, and when Presidential and congressional terms begin and end.

The delegates at the Constitutional Convention did not address election, commencement, and inauguration dates in the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution only requires that Congress meet once a year to discuss the condition of the country.

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Ms. Archivist

The National Archives History Office is celebrating Women’s History Month by featuring past employees. Today’s post comes from Hailey Philbin.

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Mabel Deutrich. (National Archives Identifier 12170444)

“Deutrich’s only disadvantage in this respect lies in her being a woman.”

Imagine hearing this and inevitably realizing that your career ambitions would be restricted because of your gender. Mabel Deutrich was given this discriminatory explanation as a reason why it might be difficult for her to receive a promotion before an equally, or even less qualified male. Continue reading

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