Archival Research Catalog is Retiring on August 15th

After 10 years of providing online access to the National Archives’ holdings the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) is permanently retiring on August 15th.

You can still search descriptions and digital content using our Online Public Access search

Search for National Archives Records Online

Search for National Archives Records Online

Online Public Access contains all of the descriptions and digitized content that was in ARC.  Online Public Access also searches our web site,, and the web sites of the Presidential Libraries for information related to your search.  Your search results will be grouped into categories based upon the type of information we have that is relevant to your search:

  • Digital copies of records
  • Descriptions of records
  • Web pages on
  • Web pages on the Presidential Libraries’ websites

We will be sharing information and tips for using Online Public Access over the next few weeks here on NARAtions.  if you have any questions about using Online Public Access please leave a comment.

Posted in DC-area Researchers, Genealogy / Family History, Online Research, Research | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

The Fourth on Foursquare 2.0

Fourth of July gathering at the home of Mayor Bob Fowler of Helen, Georgia, near Robertstown, after a holiday parade.


Ah, summer! Just the thought of it brings to mind ocean waves, picnics at the park, umbrellas by a poolside. And, of course, the 4th of July! Whether you’re barbecuing with a couple of friends  or taking a trip to the nation’s capital to see the museums and monuments, take a moment and dig through some history with us about the 4th of July.

That’s right—we’re reprising the Fourth on Foursquare! So look out for documents and photographs all celebrating Independence Day – from fireworks to cartoons to presidents. We’ll have a link to the document at each tip and location, so make sure to follow our Foursquare page tips to discover a little bit more about the 4th of July every day.

Posted in Events, Photographs, Social Media (Web 2.0) | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Hurricane Sandy Remembered

Today’s post comes from Victoria Blue, staff writer at the National Archives

Seven months after Hurricane Sandy swept over the Caribbean and up the Eastern seaboard of the United States, communities affected by this destructive storm are still working to rebuild their lives.

Today, we remember the past and present of the storm’s impact with Historypin’s newest project: “Hurricane Sandy: Record, Remember, Rebuild.” You can learn more about the project in Historypin’s video:

The Hurricane Sandy project is a shared online collection of local history as captured by individuals and cultural heritage institutions alike. Anyone can contribute images to the Historypin project to tell the story of their communities and neighborhoods before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy.

The National Archives contributed more than 30 digital images from our holdings to the Hurricane Sandy project.  These images document areas along the East Coast as they existed before the storm. Visit the project page to see images from our holdings pinned to their original locations on the map:

Hurricane Sandy project sreenshot

“The National Archives is proud to partner with Historypin for the Hurricane Sandy project. This project speaks to our mission of preserving records and making them available to the public,” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. “While the National Archives’s buildings generally fared well in the storm, we know that many did not. Our staff have reached out to state archivists, and worked with other agencies to coordinate records recovery operations. It’s critical that these chapters in our nation’s history, no matter how devastating, are not forgotten.”

Other collaborators include Google, the Metropolitan New York Library Council, the Society of American Archivists, and the American Association of State and Local History. Local libraries and historical societies also shared photos of Sandy and other hurricanes reaching back to 1938.

You can view the project, explore memories of Hurricane Sandy, and make your own photo contributions at

Posted in Events, Online Research, Photographs, Research, Social Media (Web 2.0) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Improving our digital services to better serve you

Throughout this past year, the National Archives and Federal agencies have been working to implement the Digital Government Strategy by improving digital services to better serve you.

We’ve worked toward specific milestones that improve access to government information and we launched to report on our progress.  We sought your ideas for improvement in August and now you can see our progress toward making available mobile apps and web APIs.

Mobile:  We’ve mobile optimized, released a mobile site for Presidential Documents, and a mobile app called “To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” which makes available photos, documents, and recordings from the related exhibit.

Presidential Docs Mobile Site

To the Brink Mobile App

To the Brink Mobile App 

Web APIs: We’ve expanded the API to include the Public Inspection Desk and integration with  We’ve also included created an interactive dataset and API for Executive Orders from 1994 to 2012 on     

We continue to increase the records we make available on sites like Wikipedia and Flickr, which have robust mobile and web API capabilities.  These projects, in addition to our work on the Digital Public Library of America, greatly expand public access to government records.

Engaging Developers:  We launched to promote innovative uses of our data and tools in the public and private sectors.  We’re participating in the National Day of Civic Hacking on June 1-2, 2013, by sponsoring several challenges related to visualizing historical datasets and developing a mobile app for researchers to easily upload digital images of historical records.  We’re looking forward to see what innovative solutions might be developed by the public.

National Day of Civic Hacking

All of our efforts, however, are only a piece of the larger Federal Government effort to improve digital services.  You can check out other agencies’ developer hubs and new mobile services and APIs, including a new API for the State Department’s Office of the Historian Ebook Catalog, which contains all of the ebooks from the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series.

Posted in DC-area Researchers, Digital Government Strategy, Open Government, Wikipedian in Residence | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Online Public Access catalog down for maintenance May 10-25, 2013

The National Archives’ Online Public Access (OPA) system will be down for maintenance from May 10 to May 25, 2013. We are in the process of rolling out a new version of OPA that will bring the catalog up to date. After the updated system is rolled out, the catalog will be updated on a weekly basis. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience as we work to improve the system!

You may wish to use the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) for your research during this period of downtime. The descriptions or catalog records will be available in ARC, although all digital images in ARC will be unavailable for this period. Please check out OPA after May 25th!

If you have any questions, please contact us at

Please bear with us as we bring you a new and improved online public access catalog!
[“Aircraft Schools. Boys training as maintenance men at Aero Industries Technical Institute, 05/01/1940. National Archives Identifier 532186]


Posted in Digitization, Online Research, Research | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Records from the Wild West, the Fort Smith Criminal Case Files Now Online

Today’s post comes from Stephanie Stegman, Volunteer at the National Archives at Fort Worth

The Fort Smith Criminal Case Files, 1866-1900 used to be difficult to search, but not anymore.  These Wild West court cases offer a glimpse of what life was like on the frontier between western Arkansas and the Indian Territory, which today is Oklahoma.  The National Archives at Fort Worth has a new website designed to guide you step by step through these colorful records.

Research Guide screenshot

The United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas was unusual because from 1851 until 1896 its jurisdiction extended westward, beyond the state of Arkansas, and into Indian Territory.  Tribal courts heard cases involving crimes committed among their own members until 1885.  However, most of the criminal offenses that occurred in this large area of 74,000 square miles were tried at the federal district court level.  These cases include a large number of liquor violations and larceny, such as stealing horses, as well as instances of murder and mayhem that we commonly associate with classic Western television shows.

John Middleton

Acting Lt. Governor of Texas, Barnett Gibbs’s Proclamation for the Apprehension of John Middleton, 04/21/1885  (National Archives Identifier 5898031)

After a fire at the original court seat in Van Buren, the Western District of Arkansas moved to Fort Smith on the Arkansas River in 1871 and into the recently closed U.S. Army barracks building in 1872.  For the next twenty years, the court heard cases from Indian Territory, where the lawless often went to hide out and ran into other criminals as well as law-abiding citizens.  The Fort Smith court records mention not only the defendants, but also some of the victims, witnesses, U.S. marshals, deputy marshals, and other court employees.

The criminal case files (also called defendant jackets) have been scanned and are available online through

Sam and Belle Starr jacket on screen capture

These records tell sensational (and sometimes graphic) stories from the history of the American West with cases involving infamous outlaws: the “Bandit Queen” Belle Starr, the Dalton Gang, Crawford Goldsby (alias Cherokee Bill), and murderer-turned-silent-movie-star Henry Starr, to name a few.  Famous lawmen and jurists like the legendary black U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves and “Hanging” Judge Isaac C. Parker also make frequent appearances.

One researcher found 287 separate cases that mention Bass Reeves.  A former slave from Texas, Reeves had a distinguished career as a deputy marshal and served the federal district court for 32 years.  This number isn’t surprising, given his long career and his knack for capturing suspected criminals.  The men (and a few women) who were deputy marshals did the majority of the court’s work.  They served writs, gave testimony, and led posses as well as transporting and capturing or killing outlaws.

Oath of Office for Bass Reeves, 1889 (National Archives Identifier 6851120)

The National Archives at Fort Worth’s new research guide provides a description of these and other resources to explain the “who, what, when, and where” of the criminal case files.  In addition to case files, related court records also may help researchers to create a more complete picture of a particular case.  For a number of years, Fort Worth’s volunteers have worked to flatten documents, index records, and understand how these bits and pieces fit together.  Now all of these efforts are available online.

To learn more, visit the National Archives at Fort Worth’s website:

Posted in Digitization, NARA Coast to Coast, Online Research, Research | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reduction of Public Hours in Washington, DC Area

Starting on Friday, March 15, the National Archives will reduce public hours at two locations in the Washington, DC, area as part of actions it is taking due to sequestration.

These reductions will affect exhibit spaces and research rooms at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, and research rooms at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

In the past, the National Archives offered extended hours for exhibit spaces from March 15 through Labor Day, when the building stayed open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.  We will no longer offer these extended hours. Exhibit spaces at the National Archives Building in Washington DC will remain open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., seven days a week, year round. Please note that the last admission will be at 5:00 p.m.

Research rooms at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, and the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, are normally open to researchers six days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. three days a week (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday).  We will no longer offer these extended hours. The research rooms will remain open to researchers from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, year round.

In announcing the reduced hours, the Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said “We don’t take these reductions lightly. We are working hard to achieve our mission and minimize disruptions to the services we provide to the public.”

Thanks for your patience and understanding as we adjust our hours and work to serve researchers and visitors.

*Update: Please note the research rooms will still be open until 9:00 pm on Friday, March 15th. This will be the last day for extended hours. As of Saturday, March 16th, the research room hours will be 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Clock on Nicollet Mall

On South 9th Street on Nicollet Mall the Huge Clock provides the time and a Resting Place, 06/1973, National Archives Identifier 551447

Posted in DC-area Researchers, Research | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Motown Was Not Afraid

Today’s post is written by Katie Dishman, of the National Archives at Chicago.

So many songs, so many lawsuits.  As February brings a plethora of romantic tunes to the airwaves and to people’s hearts, a copyright case recalls how one of the most popular Motown creations was alleged to have been plagiarized from another source.

When Baby Love was sung by popular “girl group” The Supremes, it became a number one song in 1964.  It was written and produced by the prolific team of Holland-Dozier-Holland (H-D-H), a hit-making trio at the Detroit-based studio.

Record of baby love

Record of Baby Love recorded by The Supremes in 1964, used as an exhibit in the court case.

However, in 1966, Lorenzo Pack, head of New York-based Packson Music Publishing Company, sued Motown Record Corporation, (subsidiary) Motown Sales Corporation, and the Jobete Music Company for copyright infringement.  The civil action, case number 28687, was filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, also located in Detroit.

Pack claimed his 1962 song I’m Afraid was copied in part by H-D-H.  Pack, a former prize fighter, was questioned in painstaking detail about how he and co-writer Harper Evans came to compose the song together, with the opposing lawyer wondering how they were able to write the melody with only one of the men being able to read music “a little bit.”  The retired pugilist explained that the two sang the song back and forth and wrote as much as they could until they were satisfied with it.  Subsequently, they took the song to a musician who was able to formally write the music on “onion skin.”

Further, in Pack’s deposition he claimed he recorded I’m Afraid around 1962-1963, but did not release it immediately because he felt it was not quite complete.  He waited a few months to go back to overdub the original.  However, Packson Music ended up never releasing the song, even though it was recorded in a studio with several instruments, a lead singer, and backup singers.  Moreover, it turns out there were 100 copies of the sheet music printed, but none were sold.

So that begs the question, if the song was not released, and the sheet music was not sold, how could H-D-H copy it?  Pack claimed he played the song for and showed the music to a couple different companies in or around the famous Brill Building in New York, where many in the music industry were located.  However, under intense questioning by one of the defendants’ attorneys, George Schiffer, Pack was unable to name most of the people who heard his song, although he was certain the wife and the sister of Berry Gordy, founder of Motown, were two of them.

The terse Schiffer finally asked Pack how I’m Afraid and Baby Love are similar.  Pack claimed the first two bars of the songs are the same, the rhythmic structure is identical, the chord changes are similar, and that “there is an infringement in the melody.”  Pack said he heard Baby Love on the radio and when he was humming it, “it struck me that ‘Baby Love’ was ‘I’m Afraid.’”

Baby love record image

Exhibit used to compare the two songs named in the court case.

In addition to a few musicians who analyzed the songs and said they were dissimilar, there were depositions from those at Motown who, too, refuted Pack’s claims.  Arranger Hank Cosby said Brian Holland, Eddie Holland, and Lamont Dozier brought him the song and that they had “very specific ideas about the whole arrangement and the sound they wanted to produce.”  Cosby also said that “as an arranger of many years experience and a professional musician, it is obvious that the two songs…are very different….  The structure or form of the songs is not at all the same.  I’m Afraid is in the old fashioned thirty-two (32) bar form.  Baby Love is in the twelve (12) bar form.  This form gives an entirely different feeling than a normal thirty-two (32) bar song.  It would be much more emphatic and direct.”

Cosby concluded by stating that the only way the two songs are similar is they use a “two note theme.”  But those themes have been used in numerous popular songs such as Till the End of Time, Dancing Cheek to Cheek, and It Might As Well Be Spring.

In April 1967, depositions were given by Holland, Dozier, and Holland.  Lamont Dozier put it succinctly saying, in addition to his never having met Pack, “I had never heard the composition performed in any way and it was never sung to me by anyone.  I have never seen…sheet music or any other written form of the composition I’m Afraid….  In no way was the song Baby Love based on anyone else’s ideas or suggestions.”

Brian Holland went into more detail about the creation of Baby Love.  “When we write a song, we try to express real feelings about a real situation….  In writing the song for the Supremes it was obvious that we were writing for pretty young girls, of whom one is the so-called lead singer….  Therefore, in writing Baby Love, we pictured a simple story about a girl whose boyfriend has left her and who loves him very dearly and who would like the boy to come back.  The music…fits this simple story.”

The “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” from October 1967 by Judge Talbot Smith stated that the song entitled I’m Afraid is “dissimilar in every material respect” from Baby Love except that they each use a “two-note motive” for their melodies, and that is common in “musical literature.”  Also, “the Court further concludes that there was no evidence that the writers of Baby Love had access to the musical composition I’m Afraid.”

In the “Judgment,” from December 1967, Judge Smith ordered in favor of the defendants “dismissing the action with costs and disbursements to be taxed by the Clerk in favor of the Defendants and against the Plaintiff.”

Within a couple weeks of the dismissal, the plaintiff filed an appeal.  Whether that case uncovered any more interesting testimony remains to be seen.  But given the facts of the original case, Motown would have no cause to be afraid.

Posted in NARA Coast to Coast, NARA Staff Favorites, Research | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

2013 Regional Residency Fellowship: Request for Proposals

Photograph of Mrs. Adelaide Minogue Checking Humidity Recorder in Stacks, 1942 (National Archives Identifier: 3493247)

The National Archives, with the generous support of the Foundation for the National Archives, is now inviting proposals for the 2013 Regional Residency Fellowship Program.

The Residency Fellowship Program gives researchers the opportunity to conduct original research using records held at National Archives locations in Boston, MA; Denver, CO; Fort Worth, TX; Riverside, CA; San Francisco, CA; and St. Louis, MO. Researchers can explore  overlooked records and experience what many researchers have discovered: that it is not necessary to go to Washington, DC, to do research at the National Archives.

For 2013, one fellow will be assigned to each of the participating National Archives facilities, for a total of six fellowships. Each fellow will receive a $3,000 stipend, funded by the Foundation for the National Archives, to assist with travel and research expenses.

The Fellowship recipients are expected to complete a research project that results in a publishable product. Each recipient will also prepare a short report (within one year of receiving the Fellowship) for publication by the National Archives that describes the research experience: the discovery, method, and use of the records.

We encourage our Fellowship recipients to use social media to talk about their experience. At the end of their research visit, Fellows will also conduct a staff briefing  to share their discoveries.

Academic and independent historians, public and local historians, and writers are encouraged to apply. Current National Archives employees and contractors or their immediate family members are not eligible.

Submit proposals by e-mail or mail. Proposal must be received by March 15, 2013Awards will be announced May 1, 2013.

What to send:

  • A description and justification for the project, not to exceed six pages. This proposal should include:
    • a description of the records to be used for research (there should be enough records in your location for a research visit of at least one week);
    • a listing of the records that will be used at the location;
    • the proposed final product; and
    • the significance of the project to historical scholarship.
  • Please also include:
    • Vita (no more than three pages) including current contact information; and
    • two letters of recommendation.

Proposals should be sent by mail or email to the NARA facility the researcher intends to use for the fellowship.

2013 Fellowship locations

Boston, MA

National Archives at Boston
2013 Fellowship Program
380 Trapelo Road
Waltham, MA  02452-6399
Tel: 781-663-0121
Fax: 781-663-0154


Denver, CO

National Archives at Denver
2013 Fellowship Program
17101 Huron Street
Broomfield, CO  80023
Tel: 303-604-4740
Fax: 303-604-4750


Fort Worth, TX

National Archives at Fort Worth
2013 Fellowship Program
1400 John Burgess Drive
Fort Worth, TX  76140
Tel: 817-551-2051
Fax: 817-551-2034


Riverside, CA

National Archives at Riverside
2013 Fellowship Program
23123 Cajalco Road
Perris, CA 92570-7298
Tel: 951-956-2040
Fax: 951-956-2049


San Francisco, CA

National Archives at San Francisco
2013 Fellowship Program
Lee J. Ryan Federal Building
1000 Commodore Drive
San Bruno, CA 94066-2350
Tel: 650-238-3501
Fax: 650-238-3510



St. Louis, MO

National Archives at St. Louis
2013 Fellowship Program
Attn: Ashley Mattingly (RL-SL)
P.O. Box 38757
St. Louis, MO  63138

For FedEx and UPS deliveries ONLY:

National Personnel Records Center
1 Archives Drive
Room 340, Ashley Mattingly
St. Louis, MO  63138-1002
Tel:  314-801-0620
Fax:  314-801-9187

Posted in NARA Coast to Coast, National Archives Fellowship, Research | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Help Our Curators Find Signatures in the Records

Jennifer Johnson, an exhibit curator at NARA, would love your help finding records in the National Archives with signatures.  She’s working on an exhibit and would love your suggestions.

At the National Archives, we have a range of signatures from the infamous (Lizzie Borden), to signatures of individuals before they were famous (Julia Child’s OSS paperwork), as well signatures that had the power to change someone’s life or to change history, such as a Presidential pardon.

Lizzie Borden signature

We would like your help to tag records with “signature” in our online catalog.  Don’t be restricted to any categories of records.  Tag records that you think are interesting or surprising.

To get started tagging, you’ll need to:

If you know of interesting signatures in records that are not yet available in our online catalog, let us know in the comments below with as much information as possible about the record.

Posted in Online Research, Research | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment