James V. Forrestal ‘15, known to members of the Princeton community as the namesake of the James Forrestal Campus, served as Secretary of the Navy and as the first Secretary of Defense. The Mudd Library is the home of the James V. Forrestal Papers, and Mudd recently digitized Forrestal’s diaries dating from 1941-1949. The diaries document Forrestal’s tenure with the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense. Some notable entries include Forrestal’s notes from the federal investigation of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack and his reflections on the role of the soon-to-be formed National Security Council the day before the passage of the National Security Act of 1947. His diaries also include the letter he wrote to Harry S. Truman resigning as Secretary of Defense in March 1949. These and other diary entries, along with over 50 boxes of Forrestal’s alphabetical correspondence, are now available to researchers online by clicking on the folder titles listed in the finding aid.
The completed digitization of sections of the Forrestal Papers marks the end of the first phase of a grant awarded to the Mudd Library by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). During the first phase of the project, portions of the Forrestal Papers, Council on Foreign Relations Records, Adlai Stevenson Papers, Allen W. Dulles Papers, and George Kennan Papers were scanned with the help of an outside vendor. Over 255,000 pages of archival material are now available online from these five collections.
The Mudd Library is now embarking on the second stage of the project, in which we plan to complete the digitization in-house. During this phase, we will scan over 146,000 pages from the John Foster Dulles Papers. This collection is a particularly good candidate for digitization, not only because of its importance to the study of the Cold War, but also because the collection exists in a variety of formats that will make it possible for us to experiment with different scanning techniques. Some papers will be digitized with an overhead scanner, while parts of a duplicate correspondence run will be scanned through a sheet-fed, networked photocopier. Parts of the collection were previously microfilmed, so we will also use a microfilm scanner.
By the project’s end, we will have collected enough data to generate useful statistics on the rates of production and costs of the different methods of digitization we employed. These statistics will help us determine how to direct our digitization efforts going forward and will be shared with the wider archival community in the hopes that other archives can benefit from our experience.
Future blog posts will continue to detail the project’s progress. For more information about the Digitizing the Origins of the Cold War project, see some of our previous posts.