Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous Research’ Category

Guest Post by: Marielle Gage

Arlington, Vscr_9710212dA boasts some of the most famous military memorials in the United States. The National
Cemetery, founded on the former property of Robert E. Lee, Confederate general, is the final resting place of many an American soldier, and holds both John F. Kennedy’s grave and the tomb of the Unknown Solider, perhaps the most poignant symbol of the costs of modern war. But there is another gem, not the site of yearly rituals. Right near the entrance is a small memorial dedicated to some of the most overlooked characters in American military history. To quote 1776’s Abigail Adam, “don’t forget about the women!”

The Women in the Military Services for America Memorial’s history reflects some of the realities of military women’s history. The current site of the Memorial was built in 1932 as the “Hemicycle” to be the ceremonial entrance into Arlington, but never served that function, and fell into disrepair by 1986[1]. In 1985, Congress approved the creation of a women’s military memorial, and approved the Hemicycle as the site in 1988. Reconstruction began in 1995 after several years of design and redesign. Controversy followed the first plan, as politicians feared several features would diminish the appeal of other monuments, such as disrupting the view of the Lincoln Memorial from Arlington House and the Kennedy gravesite. A later plan which eliminated the most contentious feature, glass prisms, was accepted. The architecture of the memorial has been widely praised, but the lack of “statues, symbols, or inscriptions that make the memorial identifiable as one for military women” has bothered some visitors.[2]

womens memorial1            Unfortunately, the Memorial has not become a major visitor site in Arlington. Arlington Cemetery’s Wikipedia page has only one line on the Women in Military Service memorial, buried amidst descriptions of several other memorials, all of which receive at least a little more attention in the article.[3] But the limited visibility and knowledge of the Memorial does not leave it without value. This little gem has a secret weapon: its museum and archives. At the “heart” of the memorial is the Register, a computerized database of military women. Users can access “photographs, military histories, and individual stories of registrants”[4] to recreate for themselves the history of women who have served our country from the American Revolution to the present. Furthermore, the Memorial has an Office of History and Collections that curates six separate collections, available to use upon appointment: Institutional Records, Photographs, Documents, Artifacts, Textiles, and Audiovisual Records.[5] The Office of History and Collections also sponsors regular special and online exhibits, in addition to the upkeep of the permanent exhibits on site.[6] Their current online exhibit is A New Generation of Warriors, which “honor[s] the servicewomen of Enduring and Iraqi Freedom”.[7] It can be accessed here:  exhibitcases

The Women in the Military Services for America cannot help but be an activist archive. Archival Activism is “the conjunction of [the] endeavors”[8] of preserving the past and influencing change in the future. By focusing on a group largely marginalized in the popular memory and historical record of the American military services, The Office of History and Collections at the memorial provides an essential service to those hoping to redirect attention towards the heroines of our nation’s history. Despite being a small, oft-unnoticed site in Arlington, the Women in the Military Services for America Memorial dreams big, and deserves our admiration.



[2] Kilian, Michael. “Women in Uniform Get Their Due.” Chicago Tribune. October 17, 1997







Guest Post by: Erin Sidwell

NationalCathedral            The category of church archives in Washington, DC can be said to be as old as the city itself, making them an intrinsic aspect of cultural heritage in the community.  The Holy Trinity Catholic Church was established in 1787, and its earliest surviving records date from 1792, just two years after the city of Washington, DC was founded.  The Holy Trinity Catholic Church Archive is an invaluable source of information, not only regarding the administration of the church as an institution, but also a source of information about the many people that have special ties to the church and the about community that grew out of it.

One institution that, surprisingly, did not have a designated archives from its beginnings is the Washington National Cathedral.  Its archive was not established until the 1980s by the voluntary leadership of Richard G. Hewlett.  Hewlett was the historiographer for the Washington National Cathedral, and he established the Cathedral archives in the 1980s.  This was not his first experience forming an archive; Hewlett was also historiographer for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington as well as the Atomic Energy Commission and established archives there, and prior to that he worked as an Intelligence Specialist for the U.S. Air Force (“Richard G. Hewlett, Co-Founder,” 2015). Richard-Hewlett

The Washington National Cathedral archives contain materials from the Cathedral’s founding and construction, including the frequently-referenced building plans and architectural drawings (“Cathedral archives,” 2015).  The accumulation of materials since then caused the archives to outgrow the available space at the Cathedral. Aside from being the person primarily responsible for archiving the collections, Hewlett can also be credited with the long-term preservation and accessibility of not only the Cathedral archives, but several others as well.  Hewlett was one of the co-founders of History Associates, Inc., a company that provides a variety of archives-related services, such as archiving, collections management, histories, and exhibits.


History Associates, Inc.  (2015). “Richard G. Hewlett, Co-founder.” Retrieved from

Washington National Cathedral. (2015). “Cathedral archives.”  Retrieved from

Recently, I have started a research project for SAAatCUA to find  local archivists within the Washington, D.C area.  I figured the best way to start was to find the information of all the archivists at the local Universities that belong to the Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC).  This information can be valuable for anyone who is interested in doing research at one of the University Archives or for class projects if an archivist needs to be contacted.  This is the most current information from the schools and the only school in the WRLC I could not find any information on was the University of the District of Columbia (UDC).

Name Position Location Phone Email Link (to information)
Timothy J. Meagher University Archivist The Catholic University of America (202) 319-5065
Paul J. Kelly Digital Archivist The Catholic University of America (202) 319-5065
Maria Mazzenga Education Archivist The Catholic University of America (202) 319-5065
William John Shepherd Associate Archivist The Catholic University of America (202) 319-5065
Shane MacDonald Archives Technician The Catholic University of America (202) 319-5065
Susan McElrath University Archivist American University (202) 885-3197
Katie Demetri Archives Specialist American University (202) 885-3254
Leslie Nellis Associate Archivist American University (202) 885-3204
Michael Olson Archives Preservation Specialist, Library Gallaudet University Phone:(202) 250-2652, Video Phone: (866) 218-0672
Christopher Shea Archives Technician, Library Gallaudet University n/a
Yvonne Carignan Head, Special Collections and Archives George Mason University (703) 993-2221
Maura Pierce Processing Archivist for C-SPAN Org. Records & Historical Archives George Mason University (202) 626-7967
Robert Vay Digital Collections Archivist George Mason University (703) 993-9513
Thomas Connors IBT Labor Archivist George Washington University (202) 994-1216
Elisabeth Kaplan Associate Special Collections Archivist George Washington University (202) 994-5081
Alexandra Krensky Processing Archivist George Washington University (202) 994-1363
Leah Richardson Public Services and Outreach Archivist George Washington University (202) 994-3263
Vakil Smallen NEA Project Archivist George Washington University (202) 994-1371
Christopher Walker Archives Specialist George Washington University (202) 994-9292
Doretha Williams Project Director for D.C. Africana Archives George Washington University n/a dorethawilliams@email.gwu
Lynn Conway University Archivist Georgetown University (202) 687-7631
Ann Galloway Assistant Archivist Georgetown University (202) 687-1863
Ted Jackson Manuscripts Archivist Georgetown University (202) 687-7423
Lisette Matano Manuscripts Archivist Georgetown University (202) 687-2814
Scott Taylor Manuscripts Archivist Georgetown University (202) 687-4986
Clifford L. Muse Jr., PhD University Archivist Howard University (202) 806-7498
Tewodros Abebe Senior Archivist Howard University (202) 806-7498
Sarah Holland Digital Access/Archivist Marymount University (703) 284-4990

Guest Post by Kelsey Conway

For all that we do know about the history of slavery in the United States, actually getting your hands on some primary sources can be a bit of a challenge. If the records weren’t burned or otherwise lost during the Civil War (as is the case in much of Virginia, there is a good chance that the lives and identities of these individuals simply weren’t recorded – or if they were, prior to emancipation they were recorded in the limiting context of other people’s property.

Researchers may find the DC/Maryland/Virginia (DMV) area a promising location for potential primary sources with the National Archives and Library of Congress so close at hand. Indeed, both of these repositories have potentially fantastic resources. But primary sources on slavery are, as described, an odd case. Records are sporadic, and vibrant information may be hidden in unlikely sources. The DMV area is rich in history, and to focus exclusively on NARA and LOC might just keep some great resources hidden away.

The following are a few of the fantastic and ever growing resources that can be found out there today. Additions and amendments to this list are, of course, entirely welcome!

Washington DC:


  • Apro-American Sources in Virginia: A Guide to Manuscripts: This is a 1995 database recording some of the potentially useful records held throughout Virginia (including Arlington County). Editor – Michael Plunkett.
  • Links to Local History: A Researcher’s Guide, Northern Virginia History Notes: A 2013 compilation of (extensively diverse) resources useful to African American and slavery research in Northern Virginia. Primarily online resources.


Guest blog by Rachel James

According to the Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology, diplomatics is “the study of the creation, form, and transmission of records, and their relationship to the facts represented in them and to their creator, in order to identify, evaluate, and communicate their nature and authenticity.”[i] Diplomatics as a study enables archivists to confirm authenticity of archival records, and in turn helps the records to be viewed as reliable sources for users. Luciana Duranti points as that some of the characteristics that are studied include “…the presence of different hands or types of writing in the same document, the correspondence between paragraphs and conceptual sections of the text, type of punctuation, abbreviations, initialisms, ink, erasures, corrections, etc.[ii]

Dom Jean Mabillon (Archives de France)

Figure 1. Dom Jean Mabillon (Archives de France)

Dom Jean Mabillon, a French Benedictine monk, wrote De re diplomatica, consequently creating the study of diplomatics in 1681. This followed the work of Daniel Papebroche, who had written stricter guidelines for differentiates real documents from forgeries. Mabillon emphasized public faith in archives and reliance on expertise of their gatekeepers.

During the 1960s, Theodore Schellenberg said, in so many words, that diplomatics is mainly for medieval documents and American archivists do not have much use for it.[iii] However, more recent archivists such as Luciana Duranti and Heather MacNeil continue to study and see if it can be applied today. An example of its use today was showcased in the U.S. National Archives and Record Administration’s magazine Prologue in regards to the U.S. Constitution. The author Henry Bain discussed details of the physical document of the Constitution in “Errors in the Constitution—Typographical and Congressional.” He noted the ways the scribe of the Constitution Jacob Shallus tried to add the words or concepts that had been left out which can be seen in the way the text was altered to include them; his penmanship and methods for correction could be compared to other documents of the day.

The work of Jacob Shallus, scribe of the Constitution. (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Figure 2. The work of Jacob Shallus, scribe of the Constitution. (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

To prevent future readers from thinking his corrections were forgeries, Shallus listed all of the corrections at the end of the Constitution. It brings to light issues of authenticity legally, historically, and in the lens of diplomatics. It also allows people to consider who are the actors and/or creators of the document and the relationships of all parties involved and how that relates to the execution of the document.

[i] “Diplomatics,” Society of American Archivists, accessed October 22, 2014,

[ii] Luciana Duranti, “Diplomatics: New Uses for an Old Science (Part V),” Archivaria 32, (Summer 1991): 7, accessed October 22, 2014,

[iii] Don C. Skemer, “Diplomatics and Archives,” American Archivist 52, (Summer 1989): 380, accessed October 22, 2014,

DYK: Local Archives News

Posted: October 24, 2014 by Martha in Miscellaneous Research
National Zoo tiger cubs make 1st public appearance

National Zoo tiger cubs make 1st public appearance (Photo: WUSA)

Did you know that the National Archives has a plan for digitizing their collection of 12 billion pages of records. Read about their plans –  AOTUS: Collector in Chief.

The Smithsonian Archives staff will be on Facebook October 27 to answer questions about preserving personal collections –

Congress in the Archives also shared their five favorite items for Archives Month.

Why the tiger picture? I’m glad you asked…

In the WUSA news archive (Nov 18, 2013), I found an article about new tiger cubs at the National Zoo and while not necessarily an archive, I also stumbled across a website with White House Pets starting in 1789, which was news to me. Did you know that Martin Van Buren received a pair of tiger cubs from the Sultan of Oman, but Congress made him send the cubs to the zoo. See the Presidential Pet Museum to learn about other furry friends of Presidents.

Please share in the comments other Archives News we should catch up on…