What’s Inside: Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Posted: November 22, 2014 by Martha in Events
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Thursday, John Fleckner, Smithsonian archivist (recently retired) and past Society of American Archivists President (1990) gave a tour of the Archives Center, National Museum of American History to the SAA Student Chapter at Catholic University of America.

The Archives Center is one of the dozen archival units at the Smithsonian Institute. Its mission is to support the museum which opened in 1964. When John began work at the Smithsonian in 1982, the museum curators had amassed 8,000 linear feet of materials. The Archives Center continues to acquire several hundred feet of materials annually, although it is more selective since room is limited and strafing size is about half what is was 15 to 20 years ago. As of 2012, the Archives Center has 13,000 collections totaling 16,378 cubic feet. Subject strengths include the history of radio, television, telegraphy, computing and other aspects of technology with a special interest in the history of invention; advertising, marketing, and entrepreneurship; commercial visual ephemera (post cards, greeting cards); American music (sheet music, jazz) and musical instruments.

On our tour John told us about some Archives Center collections. They have ledgers, photos and records of defunct railroads (they didn’t have room to collect too many trains). They have Krispy Kream records – one of the first franchisers (they also supplied the equipment) and Scurlock Studio photos who documented life in Washington, D.C. We also saw Hills Bros. Coffee, Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni, At Home with Your Child films and Mr. Wizzard TV series on the shelves (see the photos below).

In fiscal year 2012, the Archives Center served 500 researchers from 38 states and DC. The service for the remote researchers from 18 countries included 764 reference phone calls, 4152 e-mails, 12 faxes and 801 letters! To access to collection in person, researchers just need to make an appointment, have a photo ID and a research question.

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