Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Friday Five: Armchair Dreaming

If I could view 5 items from the National Archives. . .

The bargain book behind the blogs

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution would have to count as one--risen from their concrete bed each day as they are. It’s a little scary to contemplate how they were shuffled around from one place to another with no effort toward (or, probably, understanding of) preservation. We’re lucky to still have them on display!

Being a genealogist, I’d want to take a look at what’s available in military records stretching back to the Civil War era. They can be ordered online (for a price!), but if a soldier’s name or name of a unit is in question, you can end up with a very expensive stack of paper which is totally unrelated to your family line. I know--I’ve done it!

Architect John Russell Pope designed the Great Hall specifically to showcase the significance of a building holding the treasures of a nation. Once inside the massive bronze doors, I’d just want to stand there soaking it all in, realizing that my past resides in its hidden depths.

Well over five million photographs are housed in the National Archives. I’d go for the ones (if any) chronicling the places from which my ancestors came. I’m betting there’s a small collection anyway!

Finally, I’d be interested in documents about World War II. Certainly the treaty signed on board the U.S.S. Missouri which ended hostilities between this country and Japan in September, 1945, would be at the top of my list. As more and more documents are declassified, I’d be curious to learn more about the OSS, the forerunner of today’s CIA.

Frankly, I can see camping out in a secluded corner somewhere and gorging on history for an undetermined amount of time. Of course, I’m sure they “sweep” the building at night just for people like me!

But Washington, D.C. is on my bucket list. I won’t be able to stay long enough to see everything, but the National Archives will be a priority.  Until then, I’ll just have to browse their site and wish. . .

The rest of the story:
This week’s blogs sprang from a chance reunion with a book tucked away on the shelves in my study. I picked  up The National Archives of the United States (Herman J. Viola, published in 1984 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the building) at a Friends of the Library book sale for the munificent sum of $4.00. It’s like new, one of those wonderful ‘coffee table books’ with slick pages and crammed with photographs, which probably cost an arm and leg when it graced the shelves of a bookstore. It’s provided hours of armchair travel and longing. Someone probably gave it as a gift to someone else who wasn’t interested, never opened it, and disposed of it as soon as possible. It’s their loss--and my magnificent gain!
P.S. I checked Amazon and found a ton of these tomes--apparently they're up for grabs at cheap prices. BUT--shipping weight is 4 pounds, so the postage factors heavily.

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