National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, MD

Posted: October 31, 2015 by saacua in Events
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SAA@CUA had the opportunity to tour the National Archives and Records Administration located in College Park, Maryland on 15 October, 2015.  It was a great experience to be able to tour the archive and talk to previous CUA graduates who gave us an incredible, in-depth tour.

We started the tour by having the floors of the building explained to us.  Each floor caters to a specific type of item, such as textual, film, still images, etc.  We toured the still image and film floors as well as the reference rooms for each of those materials.

When we toured the still image floor, we started with the reference room where we got to see researchers at work and the materials available to them.  Everything is free at NARA unless copies of the materials being looked at are wanted.  It was really cool to see a cabinet of historical poster negatives available for researchers to study and even get copies (at a price) if wanted!  They had finding aid for finding aids and on any subject – it was pointed out there was once a finding aid found on camels.  After seeing the reference room, we got to go into the office cubicles where we were shown several different historical pictures and artifacts.  NARA is currently trying to digitize everything they own but there are some items of higher priority than others – if something needs to be digitized because it is falling apart (preservation) or for users, and then everything else follows.

We then moved to the film floor of NARA where we started with the reference room and got to see different researchers at work.  It was pointed out that there are cool vaults (50-60°F) and there are cold vaults (-25°F) and sometimes even vaults at 0°F.  Film is placed in cold vaults and when researchers need a particular item, they have to request it because the film needs 24 hours to thaw out in a special chamber that gradually heats it up.  This ensures the integrity of the film and preserves it for it to last as long as possible.  Most of the film reels are also in the process of being digitized, however; it was pointed out NARA digitizes for access not preservation meaning they focus more on the users and the accessibility of the wanted materials rather than to save something digitially (unless it is absolutely necessary).  Digitization is not their method of preservation and NARA is all about providing information for users.  We then got to go further onto the film floor where we got to see the different machines NARA owns to scan, print, and restore film (some machines were hybrids of scanning and printing).  They take old film reels and put them on new film to help preserve the information.  We also got to see an audio machine that plays sound recording.  It was a great experience and fun to see everything that is being studied in Library and Information Science classes being put to practice in typical situations.

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