[APG Public List] [BCG] Possible move of military records out of the NARA facility inWashington, DC

Rick Sayre, CG ricksayre at gmail.com
Wed Mar 9 16:15:00 MST 2011

On 3/9/2011 3:54 PM, Pamela K Sayre wrote:
> I may be a day late and a dollar short, having been in Missouri visiting parents, but I am surprised to see the statement that "there is no climate control" at the [National] archives in DC (for the civil war pension files)." The NARA building in downtown DC may be older than the buildings in or planned for the St. Louis area, but the peoples' documents are no less cared for in DC! I have been in the stacks and seen this firsthand. In my training as a NARA volunteer working on some of those very Civil War pension files being discussed, I have first-hand knowledge that the records ARE stored and handled with great care in climate-controlled environments, and volunteers receive many hours of training in preservation and security before even being allowed in the room to work on the project.
> While living in St. Louis, I traveled annually to Washington for at least eight years for the sole purpose of researching in Civil War and earlier military records. Would it have served my own personal interests to be able to go 35 miles instead of 1,000 to see the files? Yes, BUT. While researching in Washington, DC, I have access to NARA staff who have been trained and worked with these military records for many years and who possess an in-depth knowledge not available anywhere else, just as experts in St. Louis probably have that expertise with twentieth-century military records in which they specialize. But far beyond simply the pension files, by making a single trip to Washington, I could also research the Accounting Office records or hospital records or correspondence records that dovetailed with the pension files. Part of the charter of any archive is to maintain the provenance of a record--not ordinarily rearranging a file or separating related files. If those Civil War and earlier pension files moved to St. Louis, their linkages to myriad other records in the National Archives would be broken.
> I am a St. Louis-born girl now living in Washington until retirement in a few years. I know that St. Louis has a much lower cost of living and doing business than Washington, DC. However, part of NARA's charter besides preservation is records access. Many people travel to Washington to research at NARA, knowing that they can branch out and find even more information at rich repositories here with a national focus--the Library of Congress, the DAR Library, the Society of the Cincinnati Library, and Arlington National Cemetery, to name a few. While I could easily spend a week or two in St. Louis researching beyond pension files if they were relocated there, it is because I am a fifth-generation Missourian with research needs in that particular geographic area. Percentage-wise, very few people share that need; while almost every U.S. citizen can find records of interest to them in many Washington, DC-area repositories.
> So although Pat Stamm and I have been friends for years, I beg to disagree that the records are not cared for very well in Washington, DC. Further, they are available to more researchers overall who come here to research. Yes, "when you have change you also have impact," but the real issue at the heart of the possible move of these records is whether that would be a GOOD impact! I have no doubt that in these tough financial times when Congress has cut funding to NARA, a real impact could be felt if every one of us volunteered to pitch in and help with a NARA project in our area, even if we can contribute only a few hours a month.
> Respectfully,
> Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL
> E-mail: pamelaksayre at gmail.com
> *****************************************
> Certified Genealogist (CG) and Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL) are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board-certified associates who meet genealogical competency standards prescribed for those programs.
> On Mar 6, 2011, at 8:29 AM, Pat Stamm wrote:
>> To all,
>> I have seen the conditions of the archives in DC (for the civil war pension
>> files). There is no climate control. The documents are brittle and aging.
>> Personally, I hope they do move the documents to specifically St. Louis.
>> We will shortly open a new modernized, humidity controlled facility that
>> will house the 20th Century military records. I have worked with the
>> personnel of the facility. They are professionals who care about their
>> assigned jobs of taking care of the 20th century military records. Newspaper
>> articles here have touted a "more stringent storage requirements" than the
>> old facility had.
>> There is another NARA storage facility, which I personally toured, in
>> Valmeyer, Illinois. Records there are housed in a clean, climate-controlled
>> areas designed for long-term storage and preservation. Each area has low
>> lighting and air filtration.
>> In adjoining rooms, documents go through a process of restoring, preserving,
>> digitizing, and storing the documents. Each document is given a specific id
>> number before digitizing. With the process in place, there should be no
>> misfiled military files. These documents are being treated with the archival
>> respect that we as genealogists want and demand.
>> One thing I have learned this past year is that when you have change you
>> also have impact. The focus question should not be if the records will move
>> but rather if there is a move what will benefit the records and secondarily
>> us as genealogists.
>> That is my two cents worth.
>> Pat
>> Patricia Walls Stamm, CG, CGL
>> Holds a Tested Concentration in Genealogical Instruction from the Board for
>> Certification of Genealogists. Member of the Association of Professional
>> Genealogists and Education Chairperson for St. Louis Genealogical Society.
>> CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogist Lecturer are
>> Service Marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists used under
>> license after periodic evaluation by the Board.
>> -------------------------------
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I posted the following to Narations earlier today.

Before making an affirmative statement on why I think Military Records 
should remain in DC I must rebut some statements and inferences that the 
records are not well cared for in DC. I have been in the stacks; they 
are climate controlled and meet archival standards. This is the same 
building that records of the earliest congresses are stored, where 
records signed by our earliest Presidents are routinely encountered. 
Record conservation is ongoing in Archives I as in the case of 
processing widows pensions for filming. I know there are issues of 
adequate funds and staff to conserve all the records NARA holds, but 
these problems are hardly unique to Washington. I doubt that they have 
been uniquely solved in St Louis or Illinois—the problem is NARA wide.

I think decision makers should consider the following factors:

The trained military archivists are located in Archives I. Is the 
transfer of these individuals such as Trevor Plante contemplated?
Many genealogists have made a living over the years researching in the 
military records. Are they going to be kicked to the curb? One of the 
individuals featured on the recent “Who do think you are?” is a private 
researcher that has been doing NARA research for 23 years. Others well 
known in the genealogical community have likewise spent years 
researching these records and have developed specialized expertise.
I fear the NARA has not recognized the synergies created by having these 
core records located in DC. A researcher coming to DC or living in DC 
has the opportunity to develop a research plan that can tap into the 
military records of Archives I, the DAR, the Society of Cincinnati, the 
Otis Archives, the Library of Congress, BLM’s General Land Office 
Records, the military maps and photos housed at Archives II, and the 
list goes on. Also the researcher could plan to use the resources of the 
various Service historical activities such as those of the Navy at the 
Washington Navy Yard, the Marine Corps at Quantico. If I find pension 
payment information in a pension file in Archives I, I can continue the 
research in RG 217, Records of the Accounting Officers of the Treasury 
located in Archives II. I fear many do not recognize these linkages and 
the enormous burden on researchers that moving the core records will 
create. The mission of a public archive after preservation is access. 
This plan will reduce access. If the rule is that only scanned records 
are transferred then we have a long breathing period. I doubt anyone 
reading this will be alive when all the Old Military records are scanned 
and online.

Rick Sayre, CG

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