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  • Originally published 08/23/2013

    CIA closes office that declassifies historical materials

    The budget ax has fallen on a CIA office that focused on declassifying historical materials, a move scholars say will mean fewer public disclosures about long-buried intelligence secrets and scandals.The Historical Collections Division, which has declassified documents on top Soviet spies, a secret CIA airline in the Vietnam War, the Cuban missile crisis and other major operations, has been disbanded. The office that handles Freedom of Information Act requests will take over the work.

  • Originally published 08/21/2013

    Nixon Library releases final batch of White House tapes

    On August 21, 2013, the Nixon Library opened the final installment of 94 White House Tapes, as well as formerly restricted and unprocessed textual materials.White House TapesThe final installment of 94 tapes cover the period from April 9 – July 12, 1973, and cover discussions of foreign policy issues including: implementation of the Vietnam peace settlement and the return of Prisoners of War (POWs); tensions over Most Favored Nation tariff status for the Soviet Union; and the history 1972 “Soviet Summit” between the United States and the U.S.S.R. Domestic conversations include Presidential appointments and personnel management, energy policy, wage and price controls, campaign finance reform, Wounded Knee, and Watergate.Listen to the newly released tapesListen to sample foreign policy clips on the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum's YouTube Channel

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Archives readies a schoolgirl’s records and a trove of Jewish treasures for return to Iraq

    The girl’s name was Farah. She had thick, dark hair. And in the school snapshot found in the flooded basement of Saddam Hussein’s ­secret-police headquarters, she is smiling and wearing a pretty dress.She was probably about 13 when the picture was taken in the 1950s. She was a student at the Jewish intermediate school in Baghdad, where she scored a 94 in English and an 88 in history.In another time, her life might have passed unnoticed outside of her family and friends.But her school records, and those of other Iraqi Jews, as well as a trove of water-logged treasures from Baghdad’s Jewish past, are being conserved at the National Archives for their return to Iraq next year....

  • Originally published 07/28/2013

    National Library of Sweden to recover stolen books

    A chance request in 2004 for a 19th-century German book about the Mississippi River was what alerted the National Library of Sweden that dozens of rare books from its collection had been stolen. Now that volume and another valuable antique book that contains early maps of America have been recovered and are being returned to library officials at a ceremony on Wednesday at the office of the United States Attorney in Manhattan. These books were part of sensational heist engineered by Anders Burius, a senior librarian dubbed the “Royal Library Man,” who committed suicide shortly after his arrest nine years ago. A crack in the case first came last year after a rare atlas from 1597 was recovered. Mr. Burius sold or consigned at least 13 of the books to Ketterer Kunst, a German auction house....

  • Originally published 07/16/2013

    Historians in battle to safeguard Catholic archives

    A GROUP of leading academics is calling on the Scottish Government to intervene in a controversy over the Catholic Archives in Edinburgh.Historians Professor Dauvit Broun, Professor Thomas Owen Clancy, Dr Jenny Wormald, and Professor Ewen Cameron have already attempted to force the issue on the Parliament's Public Petitions Committee, calling for the Church to reverse plans to split the archives, dating back to Mary, Queen of Scots, and move on claims they are deteriorating.Although the committee has responded claiming the bid was outside its remit, it has advised those behind it to enrol the support of sympathetic politicians if they want a debate on the issue in Parliament....

  • Originally published 06/28/2013

    National Library of Medicine launches new biomedical history blog

    The NLM's History of Medicine Division has launched a new blog, Circulating Now, to encourage greater exploration and discovery of one of the world's largest and most treasured history of medicine collections. Encompassing millions of items that span ten centuries, these collections include items in just about every form one can imagine—from books, journals, and photographs, to lantern slides, motion picture films, film strips, video tapes, audio recordings, pamphlets, ephemera, portraits, woodcuts, engravings, etchings, and lithographs. The NLM's historical collections also include items from the present day: born-digital materials and rich data sets—like the millions of records in its IndexCat database—that are ripe for exploration through traditional research methods and new ones that are emerging in the current climate of "big data" and the digital humanities.

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Archivists in France fight privacy initiative

    SERRAVAL, France — As a European proposal to bolster digital privacy safeguards faces intense lobbying from Silicon Valley and other powerful groups in Brussels, an obscure but committed group has joined in the campaign to keep personal data flourishing online.One of the European Union’s measures would grant Internet users a “right to be forgotten,” letting them delete damaging references to themselves in search engines, or drunken party photos from social networks. But a group of French archivists, the people whose job it is to keep society’s records, is asking: What about our collective right to keep a record even of some things that others might prefer to forget?The archivists and their counteroffensive might seem out of step, as concern grows about American surveillance of Internet traffic around the world. But the archivists say the right to be forgotten, as it has become known, could complicate the collection and digitization of mundane public documents — birth reports, death notices, real estate transactions and the like — that form a first draft of history....

  • Originally published 05/29/2013

    How to Do Research on the Movies

    The Thatcher Library in Citizen Kane (1941).The most famous depiction of an archive in Hollywood cinema is the Thatcher Library in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941), a foreboding and noirishly lit mausoleum presided over by a prissy custodian who resents the intrusion of an actual researcher. The drudge work of scholarly investigation may yield rose buds of precious information, but the task of acquisition will be dust-ridden and tedious, and the stewards of the stacks will be cranky spinsters who eye you with suspicion as they hand over white gloves and caution you to use only the pencils and papers provided for note taking.

  • Originally published 05/28/2013

    Canadian history on the block, cheap

    A huge cache of Canadian history, stored for 200 years in three wooden chests held at a British estate, is set to be auctioned next month in London — a possible test of whether the controversy-plagued, funding-challenged Library and Archives Canada is still in the business of acquiring newly available treasures of documentary heritage. An extensive and important collection of letters, maps and other original artifacts left to posterity by Sir John Coape Sherbrooke — the Nova Scotia governor who conquered Maine during the War of 1812 and later served as Canada’s governor general — is to be sold on June 19 as the showcase lot in a major Bonhams auction of rare books and manuscripts.A large, coloured and “exceptionally fine” map of the village of York and the Lake Ontario shoreline that was created for Sherbrooke in 1817 — showing the future Toronto in such minute detail that individual homes are depicted — is a highlight of the sale, appearing on the cover of the auction catalogue.

  • Originally published 05/21/2013

    New research tools kick up dust in archives

    Seated recently in the special collections room at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology library, Anders Fernstedt raced through an imposing set of yellowing articles and correspondence.Several years ago Mr. Fernstedt, an independent Swedish scholar who is studying the work of the 20th-century philosopher Karl Popper and several of his colleagues, would have scratched out notes and set aside documents for photocopying.Now, however, his tool of choice is the high-resolution camera on his iPhone. When he found a document of interest, he quickly snapped a photo and instantly shared his discovery with a colleague working hundreds of miles away. Indeed, Mr. Fernstedt, who conducts his research on several continents, now packs his own substantial digital Popper library on the disk of his MacBook Air laptop computer — more than 50,000 PDF files that he can browse through in a flash.

  • Originally published 03/14/2013

    Retirees today leave behind a historians' treasure trove of documentation

    NO one will confuse typical retirees today with the Emperor Augustus, who constructed a huge mausoleum to celebrate his life for eternity. And yet they belong to the first generation of elders within easy grasp of something once so rare and valuable that relatively few historic figures could enjoy it until now: virtual immortality.Where their grandparents may have left behind a few grainy photos, a death certificate or a record from Ellis Island, retirees today have the ability to leave a cradle-to-grave record of their lives. Their descendants will be able to witness births and first steps, Pee Wee football games and grade school dance recitals, high school graduations, wedding ceremonies, first homes, vacations and family reunions. They will also be able to read their opinions on politics and religion, know that they loved the music of Junior Kimbrough, the films of Billy Wilder, the New York Yankees and mint chocolate chip ice cream.Ancestors from the distant past are, at best, names in the family Bible. Fifty, 100, even 500 years hence people will be able to see how their forebears looked and moved, hear them speak, learn about their aspirations and achievements and that sizzling ski trip to Vermont....

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