Archives for Everyone

In each of the last two springs, several staff of the Mudd Manuscript Library and other members of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections have judged at the regional qualifier of the National History Day competition held on Princeton’s campus. This is a contest for middle and high school students who, based on rigorous guidelines, synthesize and analyze information about a historic event. They then create a paper, website, documentary, exhibit or performance explaining what they have learned.

Judging National History Day is a powerful touchstone about the value of archives in the production of history. Each year, I see students adroitly avoid some of the more common traps of historical production — their projects are clear, level-headed, open-minded, and support their claims with evidence. Students who submit the best projects don’t just have a clear argument and lengthy bibliography — they let the primary sources surprise them and challenge their previous conceptions of the past. Yes, they may start with textbooks and biographies, but stronger projects evaluate primary sources. And the very best projects tend to not just look at key documents that have been artificially assembled on a website (although this is valuable too) — they look at records in context and try to make arguments about subtext and authenticity.

The best place to find records in context is usually an archives. But of course, access to archives isn’t easy for students. Working parents may not be able to take their children to the New Jersey Historical Society or National Archives or Mudd Library, as much as they might like to provide that experience. Most archives are only open during the hours when parents are working and visiting these institutions can be intimidating. From a young student’s perspective, it’s often hard to tell what the holdings are and whether the trip will be worth it.

Our NHPRC-funded project hopes to be a model toward ameliorating this barrier to access. We believe that by scanning our records and making them available within the same context that one would see them in the reading room, anyone with an internet connection can have a meaningful scholarly experience without the cost and inconvenience of traveling to Princeton, New Jersey.

We hope that children will benefit as much as anyone from this project. As Cathy Gorn, the Executive Director of National History Day, noted in her letter of support for the grant:

Having primary source materials on the Cold War available via the Internet would allow many NHD students around the country to conduct research for their projects that they ordinarily would not be able to, and the Mudd collections to be digitized are broad enough to support a variety of NHD Projects.

Of course, students don’t just wish to access historical records for National History Day — they want access for the same reasons that any other researcher does. A teenager may want to know more about when and how his family came to America. He might want to know more about the history of his town, and how certain sites came to be created. Or he may be interested in the history of ideas, policies and customs that affect his life. The collections that we plan to digitize — the John Foster Dulles papers, the Allen Dulles papers, the James Forrestal papers, the Council on Foreign Relations records, the George Kennan papers and the Adlai Stevenson papers — document how cold war activities were conducted and understood. They also present an opportunity for students to understand through diaries and correspondence the false starts, misunderstandings, and possible alternatives that constitute all historical events.

The historian John Lewis Gaddis makes the argument for access more persuasively than I could. In his letter of support for our grant, he explained the cost, inconvenience and wear on records for professional researchers trying to do research on-site.

But the most fundamental shortcoming of this old system was the disservice it did to students of history who never got to see an archive in the first place. Maybe they lived abroad. Maybe they attended American universities or colleges that could not provide research support. Maybe they were high school or even elementary students who might have gotten hooked on history for life had they had the chance to work with original materials – but they didn’t have that chance.

Now, however, almost all of them have access to a new means of access, which is of course the internet- even if they’re stuck in a place like Cotulla, Texas, where I grew up. I mention this little town because it’s where the young Lyndon B. Johnson spent a year teaching, in 1928-29, in the then segregated Mexican-American school. What he tried to do for those kids is still remembered: it gets its own chapter in the first volume of Robert Caro’s massive biography. But just think what LBJ could have done as a teacher had he had the resources that are available now. That’s why this project is important.

It has the potential, quite literally, to globalize the possibility of doing archival research. That’s no guarantee that this will produce a greater number of great books than in the past. What it will ensure, however, is a quantum leap in the opportunities students and their teachers will have to bring the excitement of working with original documents into all classrooms. That’s easily as important, I think, as writing the kind of books that might get you tenure at a place like Yale.

Mudd Library Awarded Grant to Provide Global Access to Records of the Cold War

by: Maureen Callahan

The historian John Lewis Gaddis, author of a 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of George Kennan, has stated that the Mudd Library holds “the most significant set of papers for the study of modern American history outside of federal hands.”

This may be true, but is often only relevant to researchers who have the resources to access them. We have worked diligently to make sure people could find information about our collections, but until now, there were only a very few ways to actually study these records – come to Princeton, New Jersey and access them in the reading room, or order photocopies of what you think you might be interested in, based on descriptions in our finding aids (we also have a few collections digitized and online, and some microfilmed collections of our records may be in your local library).

We want to change this to make it easier for everyone to access our materials. Thanks to the generosity of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a taxpayer-funded organization that supports efforts to promote documentary sources, over 400,000 pages of records from six of our most-used collections will be digitized and put online for anyone with an internet connection to access. We hope that our records will become newly accessible and indispensible to international researchers, high school and college students, and anyone else with an interest in the history of the Cold War.  As Gaddis wrote in a letter of support for our grant, this kind of access “has the potential, quite literally, to globalize the possibility of doing archival research. That’s no guarantee that this will produce a greater number of great books than in the past. What it will ensure, however, is a quantum leap in the opportunities students and their teachers will have to bring the excitement of working with original documents into all classrooms.”

Collections include:

John Foster Dulles Papers

John Foster Dulles (1888-1959), the fifty-third Secretary of State of the United States for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, had a long and distinguished public career with significant impact upon the formulation of United States foreign policies. He was especially involved with efforts to establish world peace after World War I, the role of the United States in world governance, and Cold War relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Dulles papers document his entire public career and his influence on the formation of United States foreign policy, especially for the period when he was Secretary of State.

We plan to digitize the following:

Series 1. Selected Correspondence 1891-1960

Series 3. Diaries and Journals 1907-1938

Series 5. Speeches, Statements, Press Conferences, Etc 1913-1958

 

George Kennan Papers

George F. Kennan (1904-2005) was a diplomat and a historian, noted especially for his influence on United States policy towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War and for his scholarly expertise in the areas of Russian history and foreign policy. Kennan’s papers document his career as a scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study and his time in the Foreign Service.

We plan to digitize the following:

Subseries 1A, Permanent Correspondence 1947-2004

Subseries 4D, Major Unused Drafts 1933-1978

Subseries 4G, Unpublished Works 1938-2000

 

Council on Foreign Relations Records

The Council on Foreign Relations is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and national membership organization dedicated to improving understanding of international affairs by promoting a range of ideas and opinions on United States foreign policy. The Council has had a significant impact in the development of twentieth century United States foreign policy. The Records of the Council on Foreign Relations document the history of the organization from its founding in 1921 through the present.

We plan to digitize the following:

Studies Department 1918-1945

 

Allen W. Dulles Papers

The Allen W. Dulles Papers contains correspondence, speeches, writings, and photographs documenting the life of this lawyer, diplomat, businessman, and spy. One of the longest-serving directors of the Central Intelligence Agency (1953-1961), he also served in a key intelligence post in Bern, Switzerland during World War II, as well as on the Warren Commission.

We plan to digitize the following:

Series 1, Correspondence 1891-1969

Series 4, Warren Commission Files 1959-1967

 

Adlai E. Stevenson Papers

The Adlai E. Stevenson Papers document the public life of Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965), governor of Illinois, Democratic presidential candidate, and United Nations ambassador. The collection contains correspondence, speeches, writings, campaign materials, subject files, United Nations materials, personal files, photographs, and audiovisual materials, illuminating Stevenson’s career in law, politics, and diplomacy, primarily from his first presidential campaign until his death in 1965.

We plan to digitize the following:

Subseries 5D, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations 1946-1947

 

James Forrestal Papers

James V. Forrestal (1892-1949) was a Wall Street businessman who played an important role in U.S. military operations during and immediately after World War II. From 1940 to 1949 Forrestal served as, in order, assistant to President Roosevelt, Under Secretary of the Navy, Secretary of the Navy, and the first Secretary of Defense.

We plan to digitize the following:

Subseries 1A, Alphabetical Correspondence

Subseries 5A, Diaries

 

Digitization will occur over the course of two years, and materials will be added to the web as they are digitized. Please be in touch with us if you have any questions about any of our materials.

 

Kennan and Forrestal papers processing project completed

Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library has completed a one-year project to process the papers of George Kennan and James Forrestal, two Princeton alumni who were important figures in shaping U.S. policy at the inception of the Cold War.

George F. Kennan, U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia, is greeted by Marshal Josip Broz Tito. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, looks on. Circa 1962-1963. Source: George F. Kennan Papers, Box 184, Folder 14.

Kennan, a diplomat and historian, is best known for writing the “Long Telegram” and the subsequent “X” article in Foreign Affairs in which he advocated for a new course in U.S.-Soviet relations that became known as “containment.” Kennan, a 1925 Princeton graduate, was involved in diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union throughout most of his distinguished career in the U.S. Foreign Service. As a historian at the Institute for Advanced Study, he studied modern Russian and European history and became an important critic of American foreign policy. His papers document his entire career.

Continue reading

Kennan and Forrestal papers processing funded

The Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library is pleased to announce that the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) has awarded the library funding to process the George F. Kennan Papers and the James V. Forrestal Papers according to the best modern standards, making these important materials more accessible to researchers. This year the NHPRC awarded only four grants for detailed processing projects such as this one. Work on this project will commence in July, with completion set for June 30, 2009. Adriane Hanson, who last October completed processing of Mudd’s economics collections, will manage the project.

kennanBoth Kennan and Forrestal were important figures in shaping United States policy at the inception of the Cold War. Kennan, a diplomat and historian (pictured at left), is best known for his authoring of the “Long Telegram” and the subsequent “X” article in Foreign Affairs in which he advocated for a new course in U.S.-Soviet relations that became known as “containment.” Kennan was involved in diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union throughout most of his distinguished career in the U.S. Foreign Service and as a historian analyzed the Soviet Union’s history and politics. Forrestal was the first Secretary of Defense for the United States, overseeing the merger of the War Department with the Navy Department in 1947. Forrestal worked to re-structure America’s defenses to confront the threat he perceived from the Soviet Union and through these efforts promoted the career of George Kennan.

Researchers should note that only a small part of the George F. Kennan Papers are currently open. However, all of his papers will open on March 17, 2009. The James V. Forrestal Papers are open for research use now, though the collection’s disorder hinders efficient access. During the course of the project, researchers should inquire about either collection’s availability before traveling to the Mudd Library.