In the course of daily life, individuals and organizations create and keep information about their personal and business activities. Archivists identify and preserve these documents of lasting value. These records -- and the places they are kept -- are called "archives." Archival records take many forms, including correspondence, diaries, financial and legal documents, photographs, and moving image and sound recordings.
All state governments as well as many local governments, universities, businesses, libraries, and historical societies, maintain archives. Archives provide firsthand information about the past. They are valuable to researchers, scholars, students, journalists, lawyers, and others who want to know about people, places, and events in the past.
Archivists identify, organize, and preserve archival records. They also assist users of archives to locate needed information.
Washington, D.C.: City Of Archives
As the national capital, Washington is home to the country's largest concentration of archival collections and repositories. They include:
The Smithsonian Institution has varied archival collections held in fourteen different units. These holdings measure over 137,000 cubic feet and cover nearly every facet of our nation's past – from the history of the Institution itself to the history of American, African American, and Latin American art, culture, music, and design; science and technology; landscapes and gardens; and native and indigenous world cultures.
The National Archives holds millions of records from the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the federal government. The original founding documents of the United States are on permanent display in the Archives Exhibit Hall at 7th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W. The heaviest use of the National Archives is by genealogists searching census, immigration, and veterans' records. The Archives also has major holdings of photographs, motion picture films, and maps.
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress provides information services to the United States Congress and technical services to the nation's libraries. It houses one of the world's great research collections.
The Manuscript Division of the Library holds personal papers and records of organizations in the areas of politics, literature, science, religion, military and naval history, and African American history and culture. The well-known photographs of the Farm Security Administration are among the many archival collections in the Prints and Photographs Division. The Music Division holds the papers of George Gershwin and other composers, artists, and conductors. There also are major holdings of archival materials in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division.
Louisiana State Archives
The Louisiana State Archives, a division of the Louisiana Secretary of State's office, is mandated to identify, to collect, to preserve, to maintain and to make available those records and artifacts that enhance our endeavors to understand the dynamics and nuances of our state's remarkable history.
Created by the State Legislature in 1956 as the official repository for the state's historical records, the State Archives has called many places home since its conception. The "first" State Archives was located in Peabody Hall at Louisiana State University, a dilapidated structure slated for demolition by the State Fire Marshal's office. This was home for the state's official records until 1966 when the State Archives relocated to a former warehouse on Choctaw Boulevard in the industrial section of Baton Rouge. This facility was likewise not suitable for the proper preservation of the state's documentary heritage. In the early 1980s, following an extensive lobbying campaign, the legislature funded construction of a new State Archives building on Essen Lane. In August 1987, this state of the art facility was officially opened. Designed by architect John Desmond, the building was hailed as one of the foremost archival facilities in the nation.
Despite the significant obstacles presented by wildly fluctuating state budgets, the Archives has had success in expanding the number of state agencies, and their subdivisions, placing their records under approved records retention schedules.
Since the turn of the new century, the event that unquestionably presented the greatest challenge was the 2005 hurricane season. In 2005 Louisiana was pummeled by two catastrophic hurricanes. On August 29 Hurricane Katrina devastated southeast Louisiana causing over $81 billion in damage. On September 26 Hurricane Rita hit southwest Louisiana causing over $11 billion in damage. While the loss of records pales in comparison with the massive loss of life caused by the two storms, an inestimable number of precious historical records were damaged or lost, as were records critical to the conduct of municipal, parochial, and state governments. The Archives concentrated on acting as a clearinghouse for information needed by parish and local governments to stabilize their records situation to the greatest extent possible.
Visitors to the State Archives can catch a "glimpse" of Louisiana's colorful past via its exhibit program. Upon entering the State Archives building, one has easy access to The Louisiana Room, where rare documents, photographs, artifacts, and other antiquities are displayed in eleven wall cases and two floor cases. Adjacent to the Louisiana Room is The Gallery which has traditionally hosted such shows as the River Road Art Show, the Associated Women in the Art Show, and the National Society of Watercolorists. The Gallery is also used for the display of oversize artifacts as well as for small meetings.
Check out these exciting programs at the Louisiana State Archives on October 24 and 26 as part of the American Archives Month 2017!
Tuesday, October 24 at 10 a.m.
Basics of Genealogy Research with Yvonne Lewis Day, Genealogist and President of the Louisiana Genealogical and Historical Society
Tuesday, October 24 at 1:30 p.m
Historic Preservation with Charlene Bonnette, MLIS, CA and Head of the Louisiana Department, State Library of Louisiana
Thursday, October 26 at 10:30 a.m.
“Louisiana Cuisine: How Did We Get Here and Where Are We Going?” Liz Williams, President of the National Food and Beverage Foundation. Donations of non-perishable food items and/or cookbooks will be appreciated and donated to the National Food and Beverage Foundation.
All events are free to the public and will take place at the Wade O. Martin Auditorium, Louisiana State Archives, 3851 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA. To learn more about the Louisiana State Archives, please visit sos.la.gov/archives.
Kathryn Smith, CDIA+ has been in the business of providing records and information technology since 1990. She is the founder and owner of Advanced Imaging Solutions, Inc. www.advancedimagingsolutions.com