Images de page
PDF
ePub
[graphic][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

* The gross figures for stack space include portions thereof used for division offices, stack elevators, circulation, and the like. In the net figures these portions are excluded.

* Of the 5,615 903 net cubic feet of stack space, 2,153,821 cubic feet will be available for stack equipment for documents. The rest of the space will be required for passageways around the stacks.

The building will be equipped with all the necessary facilities for the safe handling and for the physical preservation of archives that modern science can suggest. Å ramp running from Seventh Street to the basement will enable trucks transferring documents from their present depositories to the National Archives Building to deliver their cargoes in safety to a large receiving room, where they will be carefully checked, and whence the documents that require cleaning, fumigation, or repair will be sent to the Division of Repair and Preservation. From this Division or the receiving room, elevators will carry the documents to their places in the stacks. Each stack section will be like a sealed room, into which no person except employees of The National Archives will be permitted to enter. Any person attempting to enter except during working hours will immediately set off an electric alarm, which will give warning to the office of the captain of the guard. Frequent inspection of the stacks by watchmen, together with an automatic electric fire-alarm system, will afford protection against fire. The building will be air-conditioned throughout, and the temperature, the humidity, and the chemical content of the air will be so regulated as to prevent deterioration of papers stored in it. Sunlight will be excluded from the stacks. By these and other devices, it is believed, the chances of loss of or damage to records by theft, fire, insects, dampness, exposure to sunlight, or in any other way, will be reduced to a minimum.

THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES ACT

In anticipation of the early completion of the National Archives Building, the Seventy-third Congress passed the Bloom-McKellar bill (H. R. 8910), which became the National Archives Act, ap

[blocks in formation]

proved June 19, 1934 (48 Stat. L. 1122–1124). This act creates the Office of Archivist of the United States (sec. 1), a National Archives Council (sec. 6), and a National Historical Publications Commission (sec. 5). The two major objectives of The National Archives are: (1) the concentration and preservation in the National Archives Building of all inactive archives of the Government of the United States of such administrative value or historical interest that they must be preserved over a long period of time, or permanently; and (2) the administration of such archives so as to facilitate their

in the business of the Government and in the service of scholarship.

Powers and functions of the Archivist.To enable the Archivist to attain the objectives of the National Archives Act, he is given charge and superintendence over all archives or records belonging to the Government of the United States, legislative, executive, judicial, and other, which shall be approved by the National Archives Council for transfer to the National Archives Building (sec. 3); and he is required to perform the following duties and functions:

(1) To appoint all persons to be employed in The National Archives, except those with salaries of $5,000 or over, who are to be appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate (sec. 2).

(2) To inspect personally or by deputy the archives of any agency of the United States Government whatsoever and wheresoever located” (sec. 3),

(3) To requisition for transfer to, and to store and preserve in the National Archives Building all archives or records approved for such transfer by the National Archives Council (sec. 3).

(4) To make regulations for the arrangement, custody, use, and withdrawal of materials deposited with The National Archives (sec. 3).

(5) To exercise immediate custody over and control of the National Archives Building and such other buildings, grounds, and equipment as may hereafter become a part of the National Archives establishment (except as otherwise provided by law) and their contents (sec. 4).

(6) To serve as chairman of the National Historical Publications Commission in making plans, estimates, and recommendations for such historical works and collections of sources as seem appropriate for publication or otherwise recording at public expense (sec. 5).

(7) To serve as a member of the National Archives Council, which is charged with the duties of defining what classes of material shall be transferred from the several agencies of the Government to the National Archives Building and of making regulations governing such transfer (sec. 6).

(8) To provide for the acceptance, storage, and preservation of motion-picture films and sound recordings pertaining to and illustrative of the history of the United States and to “maintain a projecting room for showing such films and reproducing such sound recordings for historical purposes and study” (sec. 7).

(9) To make recommendations to Congress regarding the disposal of papers and other documents among the archives and records of the Government "which appear to have no permanent value or historical interest” (sec. 9).

(10) To direct the expenditures of all appropriations for the maintenance of the National Archives Building, for the administration of the collections, for other expenses of The National Archives, and for the expenses of the National Historical Publications Commission (sec. 10).

The National Archives Council.The National Archives Council is composed of the Secretary of each of the executive departments of the Government (or an alternate from each department to be named by the Secretary thereof), the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Library, the chairman of the House Committee on the Library, the Librarian of Congress, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and the Archivist of the United States. Authority is granted to this Council to "define the classes of material” to be transferred to the National Archives Building and to "establish regulations governing such transfer”; to “advise the Archivist in respect to regulations governing the disposition and use of the archives and records transferred to his custody"; and to approve such lists of papers and documents to be destroyed or otherwise disposed of as the Archivist may have prepared for transmission to Congress (sec. 9). No meeting of the Council was held during the year covered by this report.

The National Historical Publications Commission.—This Commission, like The National Archives, with which it is closely affiliated, is the result of long and careful forethought. Its genesis may be traced to the appointment in 1908, by direction of President Theodore Roosevelt, of nine eminent American historians as a Committee on the Documentary Historical Publications of the United States Government, to make a study of the problems involved in such publications and to report a "preliminary plan" for the guidance of the Government in its future publications of this character. Proceeding on the assumption that the publication of documentary historical materials is a regular function of all civilized governments”, this Committee made a thorough review of the whole field under consideration and submitted recommendations looking to a more permanent and systematic publications policy. It found that, while the amount of documentary historical materials that the Government had published was considerable and expenditures for that purpose had been "more than liberal”, the work as a whole showed the absence of a general plan”, that it was “not only miscellaneous, but in some respects casual”, and that the gaps were many and important.” Commenting on these findings, the Committee said: “It needs no demonstration that, with the same amount of expenditure, or less if need be, our Government could, by having a methodical plan representing expert opinion, make its efforts and expenditures more effective, avoid waste and duplication, and bring out a product more useful and satisfactory to historians and the reading public.": The Committee embodied its solution of the problem in two recommendations: (1) the erection of a national archives building; and (2) the creation by Congress of a "permanent Commission on National Historical Publications." The report was printed, and on February 11, 1909, the President transmitted it to Congress without comment; but apparently it was lost in the bustle accompanying the expiration of the Sixty-first Congress and the change of administrations.

The idea, however, was too vital to die, and it reappears in the National Archives Act of 1934. This act creates a National Historical Publications Commission, composed of the Archivist of the United States, as chairman; the Historical Adviser of the Department of State, the Chief of the Historical Section of the War Department, General Staff; the Superintendent of Naval Records in the Navy Department; the Chief of the Division of Manuscripts in the Library of Congress; and two members of the American Historical Association appointed by the president thereof from among those who are or have been members of its executive council. The members appointed by the president of the American Historical Association are Messrs. Dumas Malone, editor of the Dictionary of American Biography, and St. George L. Sioussat, professor of American history in the University of Pennsylvania. The functions of this Commission are to make plans, estimates, and recommendations for such historical works and collections of sources as it deems appropriate for publication; and its recommendations the Archivist is required to transmit to Congress (secs. 4, 9).

The Commission held its first meeting on January 29, 1935, in the temporary office of the Archivist in the Department of Justice Building. It effected an organization; discussed the advisability of recommending to Congress "that in any celebration of the sesquicentennial of the adoption of the Constitution, one element should be a documentary historical publication illustrative of the origins of the Constitution, to be executed under the supervision of the National Historical Publications Commission”; and requested the Archivist of the United States to undertake a study to bring up to date the survey of the historical publications of the Government made in 1908 by the Committee on the Documentary Historical Publications of the United States Government.

ORGANIZATION OF STAFF

In accordance with the provisions of the National Archives Act, the President of the United States appointed an Archivist on October 10, 1934, who entered upon his duties immediately. The appointment was confirmed by the Senate on March 20, 1935. Since the National Archives Building was not ready for his occupancy, the Archivist was assigned temporary offices in the Department of Justice Building, which he occupied throughout the rest of the year covered by this report. No archives, of course, could be transferred to the National Archives Building during this period, but the time was profitably occupied by the Archivist and his small staff in making studies of the problems involved in the organization, preservation, and administration of the vast accumulation of documents that make up the archives of the Government.

To assist him in this preliminary work, the Archivist made the following appointments : Marjory B. Terrell, secretary (Nov. 3); Dorsey W. Hyde, Jr., special assistant (Nov. 28); and Collas Ĝ. Harris, senior administrative officer (Dec. 3).

The first task was to plan an effective organization, for which there was no exact precedent in this country. A study of the National Archives Act showed that the functions of The National Archives fall into four major divisions-two dealing with internal

« PrécédentContinuer »