archivists

SCRINIARII Archive File

An archivist writes about an archivist. Who would have thought.

[The TribeTwelve Archive] now contains a file titled [SCRINIARII_Archive.docx] which is a file containing analysis notes on what the Scriniarii video was all about. Of course, it contains links to the sources, where necessary.

I chose not to write about the contents of the file as a Tumblr post, as the file is already 4 pages long, and could be longer if it ever needs updating (who knows).

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In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting some of the fascinating women who have worked at the National Archives.

Mrs. Margaret M. H. Finch worked for the National Archives between 1940 and 1949.

Finch began her federal career in 1919, at age 42, shortly after her first husband died in the 1918 influenza outbreak. She started as a clerk in the War Department but soon moved to the Bureau of Pensions in the Department of Interior. While there, she worked primarily with pension and bounty-land files from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

When she became chief of the Revolutionary and War of 1812 pension branch, she became the main contact person for historians, genealogists, and other researchers seeking copies of pension records. The paperwork these requests generated–marked with her signature–were subsequently filed with the records themselves.

In 1940, as the pension records were transferred to the National Archives, Finch transferred with them. She continued to help researchers locate pension files but also gave numerous talks about researching in the records. At that time, she knew the pension files from the nation’s first two wars better than anyone else, lovingly referring to them as her “heart throbs.”

In an interview conducted upon her retirement, she explained the files made the men who served “almost become living people, and their descriptions of battles in which they fought are so real you feel like you’ve been an actual participator.”

Finch reluctantly retired from the National Archives in June 1949 after 30 years of federal service. She passed away in 1958.

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Just a few of the librarians, archivists, and repositories that make an appearance in my “Librarians in pop culture” slideshow for our library’s ice cream social. Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions (they all made it in there, plus a ton more), and happy National Library Week!

Something everyone who cares about games, regardless of side, NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND


Rom Sites and emulators and sites like Gog.com aren’t enough to preserve games. There are no truly functional and usable Mac emulators, and there’s only one surviving repository of mac games… because no-one cared enough about it. Do you really think in another few decades, people will care enough about, say, the Atari Jaguar or the 3D0 to maintain its games or emulators? And that’s just the actual code and making it run.

We’re also talking about the ASSETS. Do you know what companies often do with assets when they’re done with them? Deliberately delete them. (which is the ACTUAL reason why 50% of movies before 1950 are gone — because they weren’t considered worth keeping, so they’d be destroyed because it was cheaper than storing them.) That’s what happened to Kingdom Hearts, and why Final Mix HD had to be reconstructed from scratch based on the finished game.

Even if they don’t delete them, the tech becomes obsolete and/or the assets become scattered, and unreadable. That’s what happened to Grim Fandango. The ONLY reason Grim Fandango Remastered exists is because archival techniques were used to recover the assets.

And files can just degrade over time or become corrupt in accidents — that’s what happened to the Pinnacle Station DLC for Mass Effect, which is why it’s not in the PS3 Mass Effect trilogy, and will likely never be any future release of the games, ever.

And that’s just a FEW examples of the ways we’re constantly, CONSTANTLY losing video game history. An archiver is not just there to preserve the code, but to preserve the game in its entirety, if at all possible, including historical context. They’re also there to make sure that it remains accessible — that current, functional  emulators exist and that it’s on media that can actually be read and is backed up often enough not to deteriorate.

And this attitude is that it doesn’t matter, because it’s too new to take care of, is WHY we’re missing so many films and early TV shows (97 episodes of Doctor Who alone) — people didn’t care enough to actually maintain them. The owners didn’t care enough not to destroy or tape over them for space. Even when people did realize this might be something worth keeping, the proper archival practices to both maintain them and keep track of what you actually had didn’t exist. If we treat video games this way, by the time we wake up to what we’re losing, it will be too late… and an art form without its history has no use.

If all video games stopped being made forever, tomorrow, it would be less of a blow to gaming than failing to maintain video game archival practices.

I  doubt anyone, Gamergate or anti-GG, actually wants to destroy gaming… but I see too many who are acting like they do out of ignorance.

How the National Archives Helped Me Rediscover My Childhood Correspondence with President Ford

In July 2010, I was the History Content Scholar for a teacher workshop run by the Bill of Rights Institute in Arlington, Virginia.  I accompanied the teachers for a program at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  In addition to viewing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in the Rotunda, we participated in a hands-on activity helping a fictitious White House staffer, “Bob Tuse,” demonstrate “the Constitution in action” with documents from the Archives collections.  The Archives’ Education Specialist showed us a letter from three teenage women in Montana begging President Eisenhower not to let the military cut Elvis Presley’s sideburns.  The “Elvis Letter” reminded me that when I was ten years old, in 1976, I wrote a letter to President Ford, and received back a very nice reply.  When I got home to Pennsylvania, I rummaged through some old papers, found the original signed letter I received from President Ford, framed it, and proudly hung it on my wall.  Then I began to wonder: What had I written in my letter to President Ford thirty-six years ago?  I could not remember.  Did my letter to President Ford still exist?  Could it be found somewhere in the National Archives?  Could I get a hold of it?  Immediately I visited the website of the Gerald Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan and found the email address of an archivist.  I sent a message explaining that in March 1976, I sent a letter to President Ford, and received a letter in return.  Did the Ford Library have a copy of my original letter to the President?  Within hours I received a reply from archivist William McNitt, stating that he had located my letter to Ford, and that he would be happy to mail me a copy of it.  When the letter arrived, I read with great excitement what I had written to the President thirty-six years earlier, and saw what my handwriting looked like at age ten.  I framed the copy of my letter to Ford, and it now hangs next to Ford’s original letter to me.  I am proud that my correspondence is part of the Ford Papers, and am grateful to the National Archives for locating the letter for me.

by Stuart Leibiger

National Archives Note: Learn more about the Constitution-in-Action Lab in the Boeing Learning Center at the National Archives, Washington, DC