Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Visit to Washington, DC. - Family, Friends, Learning & Laughter - Part 2

    Our story continues... As class was set to begin early Monday morning (July 11th),  we headed into the city where my brother-in-law dropped my sister and me off at the US National Archives.  She headed off to work and I headed in to begin my adventure. 
    Arriving at the classroon, we were warmly welcomed by the Institute's Director, Patricia (Patty) O'Brien Shawker and Assistant Director, Marty Hiatt.  We then took our seats, introducing ourselves to our table-mates and learning a little bit about one another as we waited for those who hadn't had the chance to get their Researcher Cards before the week began.
    Then we were off and running! We spent time learning about how to use the archive collections, finding aids, guides, and the abbreviations used by all in the Archives (they love their abbreviations! FYI).
   Next we had a wonderful lecture by Constance Potter, an archivist at the main branch of the US National Archives (Archives I).  Her class was all about the upcoming release of the 1940 US Federal Census in April 2012.  She talked about the fields that we will find on that census and what they will mean to us a researchers.  It was extremely informative and I realized I would have to get ready to update my class on censuses to include details about this new record set that will become available next year.
(see www.archives.gov/research/census/1940/index.htrnl for more details)
    After a break for lunch we took a tour of the building, learning about the various areas and what helps or records we would find there. We also received instructions on the items allowed or not allowed in the various rooms to help prevent any issues with damage or theft of the materials (accidental or otherwise).
   Next we had a presentation by Dr. Thomas H. Shawker (Patty's husband and fellow researcher) who briefed us on the Still Picture Branch at Archives II (which we would visit later in the week).  This collection contains nearly 8 million photographs and graphics - from over 170 departments, agencies, bureaus, plus donated & purchased material.  The quantity and type of images in the collection is unbelievable. They could add so much to a family history narrative.
(see www.archives.gov/dc-metro/college-park/photographs-dc.html for more info)
    Claire Bettag gave the next lecture, entitled "NARA at Your Fingertips".  NARA of course being one of those many abbreviations, standing for National Archives and Records Administration.  She went into great depth helping us understand what the archives contain, how they are organized and why they are different from a library. She also gave us more detail about how to access and use the records both from home or at the archives themselves.
To be continued....