1934: Building a brick & mortar archive

The logo I’ve always used for the site is an image of the National Archives Building.  Amazingly, Congress did not approve such a building until 1926.  The architect was John Russell Pope, who also designed the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art.  Ground was broken in 1931 and the building was mostly completed by 1935.  According to the online history:

By the time President Herbert Hoover laid the cornerstone of the building in February 1933, significant problems had arisen. Because the massive structure was to be constructed above an underground stream, 8,575 piles had been driven into the unstable soil, before pouring a huge concrete bowl as a foundation. Another difficulty arose over the choice of building materials. Both limestone and granite were authorized as acceptable, but construction began during the darkest days of the Great Depression, and suppliers of each material lobbied fiercely to have the government use their stone. Ultimately, as in the other Federal Triangle buildings, limestone was used for the exterior superstructure and granite for the base.

Here’s construction images:

September 30, 1932

Continue reading “1934: Building a brick & mortar archive”

GAO report and pending bill on federal e-mail retention

The GAO has released a report entitled Federal Records: National Archives and Selected Agencies Need to Strengthen E-Mail Management. The report found that “[w]ithout periodic evaluations of recordkeeping practices or other controls to ensure that staff are trained and carry out their responsibilities, agencies have little assurance that e-mail records are properly identified, stored, and preserved.”  It also stated:

Although NARA [i.e., the National Archives and Records Administration] has responsibilities for oversight of agencies’ records and records management programs and practices, including conducting inspections or surveys, performing studies, and reporting results to the Congress and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in recent years NARA’s oversight activities have been primarily limited to performing studies. NARA has conducted no inspections of agency records management programs since 2000, because it uses inspections only to address cases of the highest risk, and no recent cases have met its criteria. In addition, NARA has not consistently reported details on records management problems or recommended practices that were discovered as a result of its studies. Without more comprehensive evaluations of agency records management, NARA has limited assurance that agencies are appropriately managing the records in their custody and that important records are not lost.

Meanwhile, the White House is threatening a veto of the Electronic Message Preservation Act.  According to the National Coalition for History, the bill “would direct the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to establish standards for the capture, management, preservation and retrieval of federal agency and presidential electronic messages that are records in an electronic format.”  (Further info on the bill here, and on issues concerning the White House’s e-mail retention practices here.)

Hat tip regarding the GAO report to David Mattison at the Ten-Thousand Year Blog.  Hat tip regarding the bill to BNA’s Privacy Law Watch.

Archiving Independence Day

The National Archives and Records Administration maintains a great site called Charters of Freedom that maintains high-quality scans of key documents such as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  It also includes the Declaration of Independence.

By the way, the picture in the sidebar is the National Archives building being built way-back when.

Happy Independence Day!

ADDENDUM: Wired has posted a short, interesting piece on the early mistreatment of the document, and more recent efforts to preserve it.

United States Declaration of Independence