Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Everything You Didn’t Know You Wanted to Know. . .





The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution , after many long and dangerous sojourns, found a home at the Library of Congress. Not until 1952, when an agreement between the chief Librarian of Congress and the current National Archivist brought the documents to the National Archives on December 13, 1952., did the two irreplaceable documents find permanent security and preservation. The transfer took place amid tight security as well as pomp and circumstance.  Though on view for tourists during the day, they pass their nights twenty feet underground in a steel vault.



The United States Census, taken every ten years since 1790, is a valuable resource for genealogists. But in 1921, a fire in the Commerce Building almost totally destroyed the 1890 census. Now the original schedules live in the National Archives and have been microfilmed for use by researchers. 

“What is past is prologue,” a quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, is one of many inscriptions found on the walls of the National Archives.

Until 1934 when the National Archives opened its massive doors, government records were stored haphazardly wherever space could be found. Many perished due to deterioration in damp environments and by fire.

Seven basic threats to the life of paper are: light, oxygen, humidity, pollutants, mold, heat, and insects. Storing fragile papers at an ideal average temperature of 68 degrees F, a humidty of 50%, and in acid-free folders prolong their life.

Researchers at the National Archives receive requests from a variety of sources including scholarly authors, genealogists, and ex-military folks seeking to learn about their units and buddies.

“Thaddeus”  is sometimes noticed at the National Archives. Supposedly he arrived with a shipment of records from which he became separated and now prowls the building looking for where he belongs!

The National Archives wasn’t a top priority with Congress, but its completion in 1935 meant the historical treasures of the United States would finally find safety. The total completion, inside and out, too six years and cost twelve million dollars.

The National Archives is built on the Tiber River marsh and required 8,575 pilings places 27 feet deep . It has a bowl-shaped foundation (a Roman innovation) to handle the weight of the building.

Sioux Chief Sitting Bull learned to write his name because of so many requests for his autograph. A letter--written for him--bearing his signature is in the National Archives.
Seventy-two Corinthian columns, each fifty-two feet high, ring the National Archives building.

Learn more about the National Archives and what sleeps inside its walls, go here.

Friday:  The five records/artifacts in the National Archives which I’d like most to see


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