In this Issue:
FROM THE CHAIR by Jim Cassedy
Hot Topic: Effects of Irradiation on Artifacts and Records by Maggie Kelley
An Archival Container History by Elizabeth William
SAA annual meeting to pay tribute to three DC archivists by Rod Ross
LINK TO UPCOMING EVENTS
Spring 2002 MARAC Meeting "Beyond the Basics" - April 18-20
Leadership Institute for Administrators of State Archives - May 6-8
DC Caucus Tour of the Hillwood Museum - May 10
Federal Records Management Principles and Practices - May 21-23
The Modern Archives Institute - June 3-4
DC Caucus/MARAC Annual Archives Fair - October 10
April 10, 2002
Despite the inactivity of the DC Caucus over the past few months, our new editor, Ms. Sarah Demb, has put together a fine newsletter. It includes a short article on the effects of irradiation on artifacts and records as a side effect of the irradiation of the U.S. Mail in the District of Columbia by Maggie Kelly. The exposure of the mail to radiation affects many of our colleagues here in Washington, DC. In addition, Ms. Elizabeth Williams, of the Hollinger Corporation, was kind enough to contribute an article on archival storage containers. It is certainly a good starting point for future discussions/exhibits. And Dr. Rod Ross has contributed a preview of an upcoming panel at the next meeting of the Society of American Archivists in Birmingham, Alabama. The panel will discuss the life and work of three African American Archivists who played important roles in the DC community. This too, I hope, will be a base for future discussions and articles.
A big welcome to your new DC Caucus Representative, Ms. Kristine Kaske
Having worked for Kristine at the Archives Fair, I have no doubt that
the Caucus is now in capable hands. Furthermore, I have reason to
believe that Kristine will be able to pick up the fallen Caucus local
events torch. I believe that the Caucus plans to visit the Hillwood
hosted by Archivist Stephanie Brown, and that we will also be treated
to a review and discussion of plans for the new DC Museum and Archives,
led by Ms. Gail Redmann of the Historical Society of Washington, DC
I am quite proud of our colleagues who have contributed time towards
working to preserve and strengthen access to public records on the
local and national levels. MARAC is active in supporting Congressional
efforts to modify President Bushs E.O. 13233 on Presidential
Papers, in conjunction with the National Coordinating Committee for
History and Public Citizen. In addition, many of our New York Colleagues,
as well as MARAC Chair Jeff Flannery, have worked to ensure that the
papers of the Mayor of New York remain available to citizens to the
fullest extent possible (for further information on these and other
concerns, see www.lib.umd.edu/MARAC/concerns.htm).
It is important that archivists and other records professionals protect
the American peoples right to access public information, especially
since the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is altogether
fitting and proper that we should do this in memory of those
who lost their lives on that tragic day.
Ive had a great deal of fun serving as your Caucus Representative
over the past two years. Its been a real pleasure working with
my colleagues here in Washington, and thanks to their hard work, I
think we have an outstanding, ongoing Archival Fair and a terrific
Teacher/Student Workshop. Thanks also to the hard work of our editors
and contributors, we have a viable newsletter with substantive articles,
and a very informative web site (www.dcarchivists.org).
The web site will soon move from the AngelFire host site to a non-profit
web host. This will eliminate the need for ads scrolling across our
site. The site address, www.dcarchivists.org,
will continue to work. I would like to extend a very special thanks
to my dear olde Fadder-in-Law, Scott Phillips, for maintaining the
site over the past couple of years, and once again, urge upon you
All the Best, Jim Cassedy
Outgoing DC Caucus Representative
Hot Topic: Effects of Irradiation on Artifacts and Records
In response to the anthrax bioterrorism of October 2001, the National Office of Science and Technology Policy determined that targeted irradiation of mail during processing by the U. S. Postal Service (USPS) is the most effective method to neutralize such biohazards. Irradiation is a proven sterilization technology and has been used to sanitize medical equipment for decades.
The Department of Defense Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute established the minimum irradiation dose required to ensure the complete eradication of anthrax spores. Preferring to err on the side of caution, the USPS typically uses doses greater than the established minimum for the sanitation of mail.
Currently, all mail directed to the White House, Congress, and the Library of Congress is irradiated. For mail directed to government agencies in ZIP Codes 20200 through 20599, all letters, flats, Express, and Priority mail with stamps for postage are irradiated.
In addition to the desired neutralization of biohazards, the irradiation process can produce undesirable effects that result from both the irradiation itself and the heat generated on its interaction with materials.
Many of the immediately visible irradiation effects are due to the high temperatures experienced, which can reach 130º C [266º F] under the current dosage protocols: desiccation and embrittlement; browning or other discoloration; melting, fusing, or blocking.
The chemical reactions induced by irradiation, and their resulting damage, may be manifested immediately or may develop over time: depolymerization and loss of strength; embrittlement, acidification, discoloration; and accelerated rates of subsequent aging deterioration in susceptible materials.
Ionizing radiation can immediately disrupt photographic, magnetic, and electronic media. The energy of the irradiation systems in use for the sterilization of mail is NOT sufficient, though, to induce radioactivity in the treated materials (even of metals).
The irradiation of U. S. government mail and its deleterious effects are of concern to the present users and future custodians of our nations archival heritage. The National Archives and Records Administration intend to issue a NARA Bulletin to provide federal agencies and records officers with guidance on managing and maintaining the irradiated mail that must be incorporated into agency files.
For further reading, the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE) has posted two online articles that provide both a theoretical background to and practical observations of the effects of irradiation on museum and research specimens, artifacts, and records:
The effects on research specimens and museum collection items from electron beam irradiation of mail by the U. S. Postal Service. Ann NGadi, Technical Information Officer, SCMRE, November 5, 2001.
Recent Examination of Some Irradiated Mail. David von Endt, David Erhardt, Abdel-Salam El-Esseily, Walter Hopwood, Marion F. Mecklenberg, and Charles S. Tumosa, SCMRE, February 2002. http://www.si.edu/scmre/irradiate_exam.html
Maggie Kelly, National Archives and Records Administration
An Archival Container History
Not many of us can remember the time before the Hollinger Box was invented. Hollinger is the trademark name for the self-lidded document case that was the original acid-free storage box invented in 1945. This revolutionary box enabled the change from horizontal storage of papers in the National Archives to vertical storage in a container that was easy to access. The design required fewer of the costly metal corner stays, and the hinged lid eliminated the problem of misplaced lids encountered with two-piece boxes. The Hollinger design is still the standard in archival storage; the modern version has a centuries-long shelf life.
Hollinger Document Case
In 1945, William Kenneth Hollinger made the first archival document cases. At that time, the Chesapeake Paper Company manufactured a 7.5 pH, virgin kraft paper for Kodak. Hollinger used a water resistant, alkaline adhesive to laminate the Chesapeake paper into the .055 caliper solid fiber boxboard from which he manufactured his boxes. After a few years, Hollinger built a demand high enough to have James River Corporation run a special 8.5 pH, bleached paper for the boxboard lamination.
1945 Hollinger Book Style Case
Availability of archival storage containers has not always been so easy and made storage in the past haphazard, as illustrated in a photo of government records stored in a garage in Donald McCoys The National Archives (61).1 A further history of the container is warranted, so that we do not forget our modest beginnings. It certainly should include information about the containers necessary for archival storage. What better time to reflect on the history of the container than during the present three-year long renovation of our National Archives?
Some evidence exists of archives containers used prior to 1945. The National Archives building was created in 1934 to house our nations documentary heritage. Fortunately, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) employee Leonard Rapport had the foresight to save some early containers when the government ordered that they be thrown out. According to Rapport, laborers were ordered to destroy the boxes with sledgehammers.
One box Rapport saved was the hardwood Woodruff file box. These boxes were used to house the countrys first large records collection (Civil War pension records). Form followed function, so that the shape of the box determined the way documents were stored and retrieved. To fit the box, documents were folded and re-folded into a square the size of the palm of the hand. The box design also failed to completely enclose the stored documents (see photo). To date, no information has been discovered that documents the decision to
Woodruff File Boxes
purchase the Woodruff boxes, or the quantity obtained. It appears that the detrimental effects of folded documents and incomplete enclosure were not considered to outweigh the boxs advantages at the time. Rapport also saved a sample of the steel containers that were used in the interim between the world wars. According to McCoy (118-119) there was dissention between Archivist of the United States Solon Buck and his subordinates, because Buck favored cardboard boxes and his staff, the metal containers. While the steel boxes fully enclosed their contents, the design required documents to be stored flat. The heavy boxes had to be stacked on top of each other to efficiently utilize storage space. Stacking the boxes caused significant inconvenience in storage and retrieval.
Rapport noted that at least three sizes of metal boxes were used. The legal size box he saved weighs 9 pounds. These boxes often tore clothes and skin, and were very impractical to refile (McCoy, 36-37). Rapport recalled the time prior to 1952 when 14 foot-high shelving filled the space under the rotunda. When President Truman gave NARA possession of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, a safe was installed below the rotunda. During the clearing of a space for the safe, metal containers fell 10 or 12 at a time from that height when the forklift failed to retrieve boxes.
Steel Records Box
McCoy tells the story of the beginning of the National Archives, but there is also a parallel story of the history of the container. We are grateful to Mr. Rapport because he had the foresight to save some of the nations first archives storage containers. After the renovation it might be nice to see a display that includes those original containers. Picture the Woodruff boxes that held our Civil War pensions along side the hinged steel container and the first generation Hollinger box in an exhibit on the history of archival containers.
I invite any persons with knowledge of records container history to contact me at 800-634-0491 or email@example.com.
Elizabeth Williams, Hollinger Corporation
SAA annual meeting to pay tribute to three DC archivists
If you are heading to Birmingham for the SAA 2002 annual meeting, its not too early to mark your calendar for the Friday afternoon, August 23rd session Paradigms of Archivists: Sara Jackson, James Walker, and Harold Pinkett. The session is meant as a prototype, where through the medium of biography the profession can look at various attributes of archivists and recognize the careers of individuals that were exemplars of the profession. All three of the above individuals were African Americans. All three worked at the National Archives where each excelled as a reference archivist.
Sara Jackson gained a reputation for knowing military records better than any one else at the National Archives. After the University of Toledo gave her an honorary Ph.D. for her assistance to researchers, the National Archives upgraded her position to that of archivist. She spent the final years of her career as a liaison to editors of NHPRC-financed projects, locating relevant materials within National Archives record groups. 2
James Walker gained fame as a subject specialist who assisted genealogists using records within the National Archives. In retirement one of his projects as researcher for the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) was to document the service of African Americans from New England during the Revolutionary War.3
Harold Pinkett was the first African American to be employed by the National Archives as a professional archivist. While scholars like Solon Buck became archivists, Pinkett best met Waldo Gifford Lelands 1909 call for archivists to become scholars within their own areas of expertise. The publication of Pinketts Ph.D. dissertation on the first Chief of the Forest Service Gifford Pinchot, for which he utilized records of the U.S. Forest Service, led to his election as president of the Forest History Society and later of the Agricultural History Society. Pinkett served as editor of the American Archivist from 1968-1971.4
Dr. Rod Ross, National Archives and Records Administration
NEXT ISSUE OF THE QUARTERLY: JULY 2002
Please send articles and notices about upcoming events, people, and news in the DC area to Sarah Demb at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any suggestions for improving the newsletter (format or content)? All ideas are welcome.*
1 McCoy, Ronald. c. 1978. The National Archives: Americas ministry of documents, 1934-1968. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
2 The Summer 1997 issue of NARA publication Prologue special issue on Federal Records and African American History was dedicated to the memory of Sara Dunlap Jackson by Dr. Ira Berlin of the University of Maryland. The dedication can be found at: http://www.nara.gov/publications/prologue/jackson.html
3 An NHPRC memorial to Mr. James Walker can be found at: http://www.nara.gov/nhprc/annotation/dec93/walker.html
4 Harold D. Pinketts obituary in Agricultural History (vol. 75, #3) can be found at: http://www.iastate.edu/~history_info/ahahs/753obit.html
* The Quarterly is a newsletter dedicated to keeping members of the DC Caucus of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) aware of the varied activities of the Caucus. The newsletter is generally published four times a year and is electronically mailed to members and interested parties. A hard copy of the newsletter is available on request.