Join us for #AskAnArchivist on Twitter

Posted on Mon, October 2, 2017

It’s October: Fall is in the air, a pumpkin spice latte is in your hands, and archivists around the United States are gearing up for American Archives Month. The National Air and Space Museum Archives is joining our archivist colleagues to celebrate with a couple of events. If you happen to be in the DC metro area on Saturday, October 21, please join us for the 2017 Archives Fair: Performance and Preservation at the National Museum of American History. And anyone, anywhere in the world, with a Twitter account can participate in the #AskAnArchivist event on October 4.

From 1:00 to 2:00 pm on Wednesday, October 4, my colleagues from the Museum’s Archives and I will be taking over the Museum’s Twitter account to answer any and all questions you have about archives, archival work, and archivists themselves. Just tweet @airandspace and add the hashtag #AskAnArchivist! 

Black and white photo of several people eating ice cream.

Staff of the Aeromarine Airways Flying Boat Service office stand on their pier eating ice cream before it melts. (Miami, Florida, March 16, 1922)


What does one ask an archivist, anyway? 

A photo of museum archivists present materials at a 2014 Family Day.

“I’ll answer all your questions!! Look at our stuff! Isn’t it great?!!” Museum archivists present materials on the SB2C-5 Helldiver at the June 2014 Become a Pilot Family Day.

During our 2015 #AskAnArchivist event, which you can revisit on Storify, we received questions such as: “Don’t you have to be a bit of a hoarder?” I stand by my answer: “We prefer ‘organized’ hoarder.” I also highlighted our must-see artifacts (Wright 1903 Flyer, Space Shuttle Discovery, and the Autogiro Company Of America AC-35) and one of my favorite lesser-known collections (the Walter and Arthur Wellman Collection on polar exploration).

A photo of a group of prominent Pittsburgh businessmen, 1928.

A group of prominent Pittsburgh businessmen pose in July 1928, at the start of a trip from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to New York City, continuing on to Montauk Point, Long Island, New York. The excursion was designed to demonstrate aviation investment potentials, and included stop at two Long Island locations:  the Curtiss factory in Garden City and the Fairchild factory in Farmingdale.

But enough about the past. What do you want to know about the National Air and Space Museum Archives? Standard disclaimer: Please be aware that there may be some questions that will require too detailed an answer for us to complete within the limits of the 140-character Twitter format. For example, “What drawings and manuals do you have for the P-51 Mustang?” For a question like this, we would need to create a custom search order form for you. Some questions may also require additional research in our collections. For these queries, we may refer you to our online request form. We’ve also answered many basic questions about our collections on our FAQ.

Let’s practice for the #AskanArchivist party:

What’s a party without food? Do you have food in your collections?

I hope not! Food brings critters to the archives. We dohave menus and cookbooks, and the artifact collection has properly-stored space food.

A menu for Aeronautical Banquet honoring the fliers in the Women's Air Derby.

Menu for Aeronautical Banquet sponsored by the Exchange Club of Columbus honoring the fliers in the Women's Air Derby, Sunday, August 25, 1929, Deshlier-Wallick Hotel, Columbus, Ohio.

Did you bring balloons for the party?

Not only did I bring balloons, I brought wedding parties in balloons!

The Buckley-Davis Wedding

The Buckley-Davis wedding party with aeronaut James Allen, September 27, 1888.

I’ve made a model airplane for this party and now need to store my drawings. How do you store your large format drawings?

We store our large format drawings in acid-free folders in flat file drawers of varying sizes. We also have rolled drawings to be flattened.

A photo of archivists placing drawings in custom folders and storage.

Archivists place large format drawings in customized folders and storage cabinets. Some drawings are still rolled in boxes atop the storage drawers. Archivists are working to flatten, catalogue, and folder the rolled drawings.

Of the people featured in your archival collections, who would be the most fun at a party?

Cecil “Teddy” Kenyon, a female test pilot for Grumman during WWII, flew well into her 70s. Here she is with her husband for Halloween!

Teddy & Ted Kenyon in Halloween Costumes

1940 photograph of pilots Cecil “Teddy” Kenyon (1905-1985), on the left, and her husband Theodore “Ted” Whitman Kenyon (1899-1978) in Halloween costumes.  

I think I was able to stick to the 140 character count (yes, I know I was cheating with the links). So, let’s stop talking about this archival party and get to celebrating. I’ll see you on Twitter for #AskAnArchivist on October 4!


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