What Are You Working On, Lloyd Beers?

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.

What is your name and title? My name is Lloyd A Beers, Jr., and my title is Senior Appraisal Archivist.png;base64a66e68fd9c5ad497

 Where is your job located?

I am part of ACNR at Archives II in College Park.

What is your job in a nutshell?

 As an appraisal archivist, I assist agencies in identifying and describing their records, determining which records are temporary or permanent and then developing records schedules that formalize the proper disposition of those records.  The ultimate goal is to ensure that permanent records which possess enduing archival are retained by the National Archives and preserved for future use.

 What are you working on right now?  (Why is it cool/why does it matter?)  

 I am currently working with the General Services Administration on a comprehensive (“big bucket”) records schedule that will schedule all of the records generated by GSA that are not covered by the NARA General Records Schedule (GRS).  This matters because this work is integral to NARA’s mission and involves a number of NARA goals and objectives which are a naturally occurring part of my work.  Records appraisal and scheduling are the first in a number of steps to facilitate public access to high value government records.  The work I am doing now will determine the permanent records that NARA will accession in the years to come.  This work is helping to reform and modernize records management policies and practices in conjunction with being responsive and understanding with regard to the needs of our agency customers.  I like to think that my current and future work will strive to best address and serve the lifecycles of all manner of government records.

 How long have you been at NARA?  Have you worked at any other NARA location?  

 I have worked at NARA for 8 years.  I started in Research Services as a processing archivist in the Archivist Development (ADP) program.  I have not worked in a permanent position at any other NARA location.  However, did spend several months at the WNRC working on a project that involved an inventory of classified records.  This gave me insight into some of the challenges of record center work. What has changed since you started at NARA? I arrived at NARA during a transition period.  Until recently my vantage point was the processing branch in Research Services.  Around 2006 a number of long time employees had recently retired and a new generation of archivists professionally trained in archival studies programs began joining NARA’s ranks.  I was a member of this cohort.  It has been gratifying to see a shift in emphasis from historical to archival expertise.  This is not so say that the new archivist’s lack education or interest in history, because they do not.  The difference is that the new generation self-identify as professional archivists, and view their work and its relationship to the goals of NARA’s strategic plan in those terms.  This is important because professionally processed and described holdings greatly contribute to making access happen.

 Do you have a favorite day at NARA, or a favorite discovery or accomplishment?

I enjoyed sense of accomplishment as part of the team effort to process and describe approximately 40,000 cubic feet of Department of Justice case files and enclosures during FY 2013.  This was a huge undertaking that significantly improved the accessibility of these records.  This work also brought to light significant materials relating to Justice Department investigations into matters of civil rights, voting rights, equal education, and prison conditions.  Particularly poignant were files that contained handwritten letters from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s sent to DOJ from all over the country pleading with the Department to investigate citizen claims of civil rights violations.   

What are your passions or interests outside of work?  

 My current hobby is cars.  I have owned Mercedes-Benz automobiles for the last 20 years.  Within the last few years I decided acquire and fix-up (restore is too strong of a word) a 1990 S Class sedan that has become my daily driver.  I also have another 1988 “rescue” car in my garage that I am currently rebuilding the transmission with the hope of making it roadworthy.

 What is the last book you read, or the last book you loved?

 Of late the only books I read are related to my research into the psychology of archives.  The last book I read was Collecting: An Unruly Passion: Psychological Perspectives by Werner Muensterberger.  Though not specifically about archivists, there are many parallels that can be drawn.

 Are there any other cool facts that you would like folks to know about you?

Working at the National Archives is a dream come true.  Being a professional archivist is a second career for me.  Prior to 2006, I worked in various capacities in the maritime shipping business including 20 years as an officer in the Merchant Marine, as an Operations Manager for two shipping lines, and as a marine surveyor for a national company.  It is rare to be able to completely change careers late in life and have as successful of a transition as I have enjoyed.  I never lose sight of how lucky I am.

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Stories From Our Holdings: Irish Researchers Study Civil War Records from the NARA/Fold3 Collaboration

Through the holdings of the National Archives are a myriad of stories that are ready to be told, from struggle and misfortune to triumph and perseverance. In this “Stories From Our Holdings” series, we will endeavor to highlight works that have been created utilizing the tens of millions of our primary source documents, photographs, and films. In accomplishing this mission, we also hope to give well deserved exposure to the individuals who have come through the doors of the National Archives and discovered these stories.

Many stories are discovered while researching the records at the National Archives. One story, “‘The Hard Industry of My Own Hands’: Three American Civil War Widows in Ireland Struggle to Survive,” was created by Damian Shiels, an Ireland- based archaeologist specializing in conflict archaeology, which was first published on his website, Irish in the American Civil War. Mr. Shiels shared his research journey with us by email.

Damian Shiels
Damien Shiels, Photo courtesy of Goodreads, 2014

As he researched his story, Mr. Shiels utilized records culled from the pension files of the National Archives, including personal letters and official government correspondence between Washington D.C and the U.S. Consulate in Ireland, to tell the story of the hardships faced by three Irish women: Eleanor Hogg, Maria Sheppell and Honora Cleary. Although these women were from different religious and geographical backgrounds within Ireland, they shared unenviable commonalities in that all three were poor, illiterate, and had lost their husbands to the American Civil War. Interestingly, they also share the similarity that there is no evidence that any of these women ever set foot in the United States.

Shiels believes that the husbands of these women, Francis Michael Cleary, Farrell Hogg, and Nicholas Sheppell, left  poor lives in Ireland in order to eventually make a better life for their families in America. During this time, service on behalf of the Union Army in the American Civil War was much more financially lucrative than a farmer or laborer’s allowance in impoverished Ireland. As he continued to research the connections between these women, Shiels discovered appeals made by an employee of the U.S. Consulate in Ireland to the Commissioner of Pensions in Washington, DC. The records showed that a case was made for the women to receive their deceased husbands’ pensions. The records indicate not only where, when, and at what age the men had passed away, but also that they left behind 15 children among them.

Because these records were digitized through a partnership with the National Archives and Fold3, they were available for a researcher in Ireland to discover and use. Since Mr. Shiels is based in Ireland and has no physical access to the U.S. National Archives, finding these records online was extremely valuable. In addition to labeling the NARA/Fold3 holdings on the Civil War Widows’ Pensions an “underused resource by many Civil War scholars,” Shiels also states  that:

“I firmly believe it is one of the finest repositories of information on 19th century Irish emigrants both in Ireland and the US available, but is completely unknown by Irish historians… None of my work on pensions would be possible without the exceptional effort currently taking place in the National Archives to digitize this material and make it available online via Fold3.”

170th New York, Corcoran's Irish Legion

170th New York, Corcoran’s Irish Legion on reserve picket duty. A significant amount of Irish immigrants fought for both the North and the South during the American Civil War. Photo Courtesy Library of Congress

If you’d like to learn more about the digitization project that Mr. Shiels used in his research, check out the Civil War Widows’ Pension Digitization Project video on the National Archives’ YouTube channel.

Posted in Digitization, Online Research, Research, Stories From Our Holdings | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Are You Working On, Michelle Farnsworth?

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.

What is your name and title?

​Michelle Farnsworth, Digital Imaging Technician​

Michelle Farnsworth

Where is your job located?

​I am located at A1 in Washington, DC.

What is your job in a nutshell?

​I consider myself an in-house custom photo lab for NARA. I work with the Exhibits (LX) department to scan and photograph records that are going on exhibit or being loaned out. I make facsimiles for exhibit purposes, as well as many gift facsimiles​ ​for AOTUS, The White House, and The State Department. I also work with Jane Fitzgerald in Research Services, to fulfill any high-quality scanning and printing re​quests from the public.

What are you working on right now?  (Why is it cool/why does it matter?)

​Right now I’m working on scans for our upcoming exhibit, Spirited Republic. Some items that we are borrowing from other NARA libraries have arrived at A1 and they need to be photographed for use online, and in the eBook that will accompany the exhibit. ​

​It’s cool because the items themselves carry historical significance as they belonged, or were gifted, to former U.S. Presidents. The items themselves are often challenging to photograph, which is a nice change of pace from my usual subject matter. ​

How long have you been at NARA?  Have you worked at any other NARA location?

​I’ll be celebrating 8 years with NARA, this spring. When I started, I was working up at the College Park Digital Imaging Lab, but moved down to A1 after a few months to get this lab up and running.  ​

What has changed since you started at NARA?

I was brought into NARA by the late, great Steve Puglia. He had hired and created a small, but very effective team of skilled Imaging Technicians who were excited about the work and environment. That original team was then combined with the former Photo Lab staff to create a bigger Digital Imaging team. We were originally  part of Preservation, but then got moved to IT, and now we are located under the Office of Innovation. It feels a bit like Prince Charming trying to find just the right fit for Cinderella’s shoe!

Do you have a favorite day at NARA, or a favorite discovery or accomplishment?

​I will always remember the two occasions that I was able to photograph Magna Carta. The first time was when David M. Rubenstein had just bought it and the document made it’s way back to NARA. Conservation had taken it out of it’s case to assess it, and we set up an imaging environment in the A1 Conservation Lab so we could work with the conservators to photograph its condition.  ​

​The second time, it was out at A2 after having been newly treated, and I was asked to photograph the process of it being put into it’s shiny new case, which is now on permanent display in our Records of Rights exhibit.​

What are your passions or interests outside of work?

​Outside of work I’m a photographer. ​I’m a chef. I’m a baker. Occasionally, I’m a runner. And on Monday nights, you’ll find me with my girlfriends watching The Bachelor and filling out our Bachelor brackets.

What is the last book you read, or the last book you loved?

​I read Beautiful Ruins by  Jess Walter, over Christmas. But the last book I loved?  That would be We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Listen to the audiobook, the reader does the most amazing job conveying the emotion of this story.  ​

Are there any other cool facts that you would like folks to know about you?

​My instagram followers join me on my vacations because I share so many travel photos, you feel like you’re there with me…kind of against your will. Also, my photo of the fall leaves is hanging in the hallway at A2!

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Emmy Award Winning Sound Editor Teams with NARA

Harry Snodgrass has dedicated his life to editing, mixing, and producing sound in films. After his first foray into the business as a student at Temple University’s School of Radio Television & Film, Harry moved to Hollywood where he launched a career as a post production sound supervisor, sound editor, and sound mixer.

After beginning work for 20th Century Fox in 1988, Harry was credited as being one of the first to utilize electronic editing by developing and adapting software tools such as Avid and Digidesign to fit the needs of studio sound editors and mixers.

After his success at 20th Century Fox, Harry was offered a position at Universal Studios where he eventually became the manager of the post-production sound editorial department. While serving as Manager of Editorial, he oversaw a large production staff and worked with other studio departments such as film/TV production and studio operations.

From his work on the cult classic Napoleon Dynamite, to the restoration of the 1958 Orson Welles masterpiece Touch of Evil, Harry’s work spans many film genres. In addition to Touch of Evil, Harry’s sound restoration work includes Rear Window, Vertigo, and The Big Red One. Recognition and appreciation for his multifaceted, 100+ film career has led to multiple Emmy award nominations culminating in a win in 2006 for his work as a sound editor on the film Flight 93

Harry Emmy
Harry accepts 2006 The Emmy Award for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Mini-series, Movie or a Special. Photo Courtesy of IMDb

Harry recently brought his skills and talents to the National Archives and Records Administration where he is now working with the Motion Picture Preservation Lab as a preservation technician.  Although sifting through thousands of hours of fragile World War I and World War II era films and stills can be extremely tedious, Harry has enjoyed working on the myriad of thought-provoking, interesting and unusual films that reside in the NARA vaults.

Harry HD transfer
Harry uses a non-linear editing system to prepare an HD transfer of 35mm film for transcode to access files.; Location: Archives 2 – Motion Picture Preservation Lab, College Park, MD; Photographer: Richard Schneider

In addition to the hands-on aspects of sound/film preservation, Harry also documents and promotes the work that the Motion Picture Preservation team does in the blog The Unwritten Record.

Harry Altra
Harry is setting up the Altra for an HD transfer.; Location: Archives 2 – Motion Picture Preservation Lab, College Park, MD; Photographer: Richard Schneider

The films that Harry and the rest of the Motion Picture Preservation Lab are currently working on will be assessed, digitized and uploaded to the National Archives YouTube channel. Users can view the digitized films as part of this project on this playlist.

NARAtions and The Unwritten Record will continue to highlight the works of the Motion Picture Preservation Lab team in the coming months.

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Introducing the Updated National Archives Catalog

Today, the National Archives will roll out the new, updated National Archives Catalog. For over a year, NARA staff worked with the firm Search Technologies to design and develop a robust catalog that will facilitate the Agency’s big, hairy, audacious goal to Make Access Happen. While at first glance, it doesn’t look much different from the Online Public Access (OPA) system, once our users start searching, the differences are apparent.

First and foremost, there’s a new address – check it out at http://www.archives.gov/research/catalog.

Screenshot of catalog search for "Truman"

And now, about what users won’t see – the “under the hood” stuff. First, the catalog is powered by a completely new search engine with improved relevancy rankings and faster response times. The system has been scaled up to initially handle 100 terabytes of data with a future capacity of up to 10,000 terabytes – so we’re more than ready to handle the millions of digital images that have been created through our external partnerships. We’re also pretty excited that the catalog is the second system at the National Archives to be launched completely in the cloud and is fully integrated with the backend system that NARA staff uses to enter descriptions and upload digital content. What does that mean for our end users? Minimal down-time for system maintenance and weekly updates of new content to search and discover.

Once users start searching in the catalog, they’ll see a new look and feel to the user interface (UI). Based on user feedback, the search results have been streamlined into a tabbed interface that groups results. Users who click into a search result that has digital content associated with it will notice an improved viewer that now allows PDFs to be viewed within it, instead of having to download the file. The UI has been optimized for mobile so users can search, discover, and contribute to the catalog on any mobile device.

Let’s talk contributions. Based on the successful transcription pilot in the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, we’ve integrated transcription directly into catalog. We’re proud to note that NARA is the first archives to do that! By registering for an account, users can now not only tag records but they can transcribe them too. Tags and transcriptions will be indexed nightly and fully searchable creating an enhanced level of access that wouldn’t exist without the help of our citizen contributors.

Screenshot of Truman Doctrine transcription screen

Concurrent with the development of the catalog, NARA also developed a public read-write API for the catalog. The API will allow developer communities to use, re-use, and contribute to our data. By Making Access Happen through the API, others can make even more access happen.

We’ll be posting more about the catalog in the next few weeks, explaining new features and highlighting new content. And while we’re excited for the roll-out, the catalog is still a work-in-progress. We’ll be tweaking over time and we want you to be a part of that. Have an idea for an enhancement? Find a glitch? Email us at
so we can pass it along.

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Our National History and You

Today’s post comes from Markus Most, Director of the Digitization Division at the National Archives.

Here at the National Archives, we’re working on a new, cross-office project to make accessible audiovisual records of World War I and World War II. We are digitizing public domain films and photographs so that they will be available for everyone to use, from teachers and local community groups to designers and filmmakers.

From the homefront to the front lines, these films and photographs tell stories from many different sides of the American experience. We want to enable communities to use them to tell their own stories at the local level. Our Motion Picture Preservation Lab is hard at work digitizing films from both global conflicts. We’ve made 25 films available and will make over 50 more films available this year. Additionally, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Motion Picture Preservation Lab undertook a full digital restoration of The True GloryYou can view a selection of films on NARA’s Youtube Channel and try your hand at transcribing and translating them on our Amara page.

A War Department film made during WWII detailing the importance of film for training, morale, and entertainment purposes.

To connect this important historical material with the widest possible audience, we’re partnering with Historypin. Historypin is a non-profit public history project that works around the globe to engage communities around local history content. Specifically for this project, Historypin is surveying customers, developing customer summaries, and helping us reach out to new digital content users. We have already worked with Historypin on many exciting projects over the last few years, including the creation of several collections and virtual tours using our holdings, such as Women’s History collections, the March on Washington tour, the 1968 Democratic National Convention tour, and an indoor view of the White House Renovation under President Truman. We have also contributed to several collaborative projects such as the Hurricane Sandy remembrance project and the Abolitionist Map of America interactive map.

We are currently in the first phase of this project. We have reached out to audiences that have already used similar records from the National Archives, as well as those with plans to run commemoration events around upcoming WWI and WWII anniversaries. This is just the first step in providing better access to these materials, and informing how we curate unique experiences around the footage.  We are looking forward to seeing how this project helps more people engage with our holdings in new and unique ways!

What audiences do you think we should engage with using our new digitized content?

Posted in Digitization, Films, Photographs, Preservation, Questions, Research, Social Media (Web 2.0) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Digitization Strategy now available

Today’s post comes from Markus Most, Director of the Digitization Division at the National Archives.

Based on your input, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has revised its digitization strategy, and we are once again asking for your feedback!

The National Archives 2014-2018 Strategic Plan puts forth a bold vision for NARA in providing unprecedented access to our records and promoting public participation to accomplish our goals. NARA’s digitization strategy must also present a clear path forward in meeting our goal of public access to NARA records in digital form.

We have reflected on areas in which NARA has succeeded in meeting its digitization challenges, as well as examined those areas in which we have opportunities for considerable growth.

The Past is Behind Us, The Future is Ahead. National Archives Identifier 541774


Our revised strategy outlines some key approaches to digitization at NARA:

  • Cultivating partnerships with institutions and organizations from a variety of fields and business models to continue and expand on the success of our current digitization partnerships.
  • Encouraging public engagement in the digitization of our records by establishing a Contributor status for donated images and actively working with researchers to gather digital images of NARA holdings.
  • Creating a “culture of digitization” within NARA by incorporating a focus on online access into our work processes.

So tell us, what are your thoughts? The revised strategy is available here: http://www.archives.gov/digitization/strategy.html

Post your comments on this blog post, or email digitization@nara.gov. Please send us your comments by November 14, 2014.


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Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and Imgur “Summer of Archives” Collaboration Gets By With a Little Help From NARA

Today’s post comes from Larry Shockley, student intern in the National Archives’ Digital Public Access Branch

On June 2, 2014, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) announced a partnership with Imgur called the “Summer of Archives.” This joint project is designed to combine historical images with modern technology in order to give new life and increased usage to historical images.

DPLA is an all-digital library that utilizes metadata and images from many institutions all over the world, the holdings of the National Archives have played a key role with the project.

In a series called “Forever Loops,” Imgur collected short moving image files (gifs) that are displayed as continuous loops. Although the gifs encompass a myriad of subject matter such as the Apollo 11 space missions, public service films designed to aid the war effort during WW II, and musical performances from Korean War era USO tours, all of the images from the series were obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration through the DPLA.

Images taken from the NASA-created film "The Time of Apollo", obtained by DPLA from NARA

Images taken from the NASA-created film “The Time of Apollo”, obtained by DPLA from NARA

As the DPLA collects millions of photographs, sound recordings and moving images from various sources from all over the United States, they greatly increase the distribution of these materials via social media applications and resources such as Facebook , Twitter, Tumbler, Flickr etc. As the DPLA/Imgur partnership has already shown, whenever a collaboration such as this takes place on such a vast scale, the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration are utilized in ways that appeal to a new generation.

Animated gif created from WW II era images taken from the cockpit of an American P-38 as it attacks Germany in 1945.

WW II era images taken from the cockpit of an American P-38 as it attacks Germany in 1945.

The DPLA/Imgur partnership is a great example of how historical images from NARA holdings can take on new image formats, like gifs. This is likely a trend that will continue to grow and evolve well into the future.

Posted in Digitization, Films, Miscellaneous, Online Research | Leave a comment

Relocation of Personnel Records to National Archives at St. Louis

Today’s post comes from Tim Enas, Chief of Textual Accessioning at the National Archives at College Park.

Staff at the National Archives at College Park are moving approximately 315 cubic feet of personnel related records to the National Archives at St. Louis.  The series being transferred complement the mission, function, and holdings of the National Archives at St. Louis.  These series document personal data and pertain to individuals, rather than organizations; and, logically belong with the records that constitute the core holdings of the National Archives at St. Louis.  This relocation to St. Louis will facilitate more efficient archival research and public access to these records.

The records transferred to St. Louis are:

Series Title: 

Panama Canal, Sailing Lists of Contract Laborers, 1905 – 1910, RG 185, A1, 138 (NARA ID: 7226554)

Panama Canal, Requests for Metal Check Issue Cards, 1930 – 1937, RG 185, A1, 139 (NARA ID: 7226555)

Panama Canal, Applications for Photo Metal Checks, July 1918 – July 1919, RG 185, A1, 140 (NARA ID: 6821421)

Panama Canal, Labor Service Contracts, 1905 – 1913, RG 185, A1, 141

Panama Canal, Records Concerning Individuals (“99” files), 1907 – 1960, RG 185, UD, 264

Panama Canal, Service Record Cards (Form 177) for Persons Employed by PCC and Its Predecessors, 1904 – 1920, RG 185, UD-UP, 51 (NARA ID: 7226556)

Disinterment Records Files, Gravesite Reservation Cards, Record of Interments, and Grave Cards, RG 319, UD-12D, 2 (NARA ID: 7543569)

Closure Date at the National Archives at College Park:  August 1, 2014

Estimated Date Available for Researchers at St. Louis: September 8, 2014

Please keep in mind that the date listed above for opening the materials is an estimate. If there is a significant change to this schedule we will post it in the consultation areas at the National Archives at College Park. You can also check the status of the records, or request these and other records at the National Archives at St. Louis, by contacting that office in one of the following ways:

E-mail: stl.archives@nara.gov or send a letter to:

National Archives at St. Louis
Attention: RL-SL
P.O. Box 38757
St. Louis, MO 63138-1002


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