Ever wonder what exciting new projects the many employees at NARA are working on? The “What are You Working On?” blog feature aims to introduce a variety of NARA employees and highlight some of the exciting projects we are working on around the agency. Check for this blog series on Wednesdays!
This week, we introduce Jason Schultz, Archivist at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library.
What is your name and title?
Jason Schultz, Archivist
Where is your job located?
At the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California.
What is your job in a nutshell?
Along with my fellow archivists, I provide reference services on materials related to the life and political career of Richard Nixon. I also process materials to make them available for public use.
What are you working on right now?
The entire archival staff in Yorba Linda has been busy since July 1 with our newly reopened research room, finally consolidating reference services on all materials related to Richard Nixon. I am passing on to my Yorba Linda colleagues everything I learned in my two years of working with the Presidential materials in College Park; in return they are teaching me the quirks and nuances of the Pre- and Post-Presidential materials.
As time permits, I am processing the White House Central Files materials of David Gergen—the political analyst at CNN who worked for four Presidents, but got his start in the Nixon Administration. Under the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974 (which governs these materials), this means reviewing every page for sensitive information, along with the traditional archival preservation activities of refoldering and making any necessary preservation copies.
How long have you been at NARA? Have you worked at any other NARA location?
I began with NARA as a student in November 2005. I spent a year with the Exhibits staff at Archives I and processed State Department records at Archives II for eighteen months before transferring to the College Park Nixon staff in July 2008. In May of this year, I followed the Nixon Presidential materials to California, returning home to Orange County.
What has changed since you started at NARA?
I can think of two changes offhand that have greatly shaped my time at NARA. The first was the ten-year processing initiative to reduce the backlog of unprocessed records. Because of this, I typed up tens of thousands of folder titles and also created many Archival Research Catalog (ARC) entries for State Department records. The second was the Joint Operating Agreement signed by NARA and the Nixon Foundation in July 2007, which created the Federal Nixon Library and got me where I am today.
Working with my colleagues to move the Nixon Presidential materials to California this past spring will always be at the top of my list. We had 35 years of loose ends to tie up before moving the materials and—unlike departing Presidents—we moved the materials without the help of the military.
My favorite research assignment, however, was to investigate the history of two dessicated fingers, part of the General Records of the Department of State. They were submitted as evidence in the 1930s in a claim against the Mexican government for banditry acts committed in the State of Nayarit in 1918. The State Department records are quite dramatic and, at times, gory. (Read more about the story here.)
What are your passions or interests outside of work?
I’ve been interested in Disneyland history since I was 13. In fact, discovering that there was a Walt Disney Archives was what made me want to become an archivist. My master’s thesis on roads and wilderness areas in California, including a section devoted to the proposed Disney ski resort in Mineral King, succinctly captures my chief intellectual interests.
What is the last book you read, or the last book you loved?
Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler. It’s a book about the reading experience, specifically a frustrated Reader who settles in to read a new book only to discover that a misprinting keeps him from getting too far in the book. For the rest of the novel, while seeking to continue the first story, the Reader is led from one compelling story to another wholly unique tale, but never finds more than a part of any one story. I think it’s very applicable to archival work because often in the records we only find a partial story, and while searching for additional details we may come across something even more engrossing.
Meet more NARA employees: http://www.archives.gov/careers/employees/