Previous posts in this discussion:
PostNational Archives, Kew, Surrey (Angel Vinas, Belgium, 04/14/17 4:58 am)
I've been a very frequent visitor to the British National Archives at Kew (Surrey) in Greater London. Before their establishment I used to visit the Public Record Office at Chancery Lane, near the London School of Economics. I cannot imagine how many hours I've spent at both locations.
To give an answer to John Eipper, it's my experience that the BNA are among the best in the world in terms of organisation, easy of access, working conditions, and friendliness of their staff. Unfortunately, I cannot make any comparison with NARA, because my visits to Maryland took place too long ago.
On the other hand, my admiration for the BNA is marred in terms of availability of certain records to the public.
For colleagues interested in this matter I recommend the recent book by Ian Cobain, The History Thieves. It´s an account of the lengths to which the British Governments have gone to keep from the public many records dealing with decolonization after WWII. Simply harrowing.
In my own experience, I regret to say that I´ve been unable to find very few records of MI6 dealing with Spanish affairs. They may not have been important to London in the 1920s, but I cannot believe that they were routine matters during the Civil War and WWII. Needless to say MI6 records afterwards also remain under lock and key. Why? FOIA doesn't apply to them.
JE comments: One can only wonder what kind of decolonization skeletons remain closeted. Cobain chronicles the UK's less-than-glorious record during the 1950s' independence struggle in Kenya, its complicity with the French attempts to re-colonize Indochina after WWII, and elsewhere. It's a fascinating story I'd like to know more about--as would many historians, hence the closed archives.
NARA is the (US) National Archives and Records Administration, in College Park, Maryland. Who in WAISworld has spent time there?
Researching at the National Archives, College Park
(Roy Domenico, USA
04/14/17 12:02 PM)
To JE's question about who's worked at the US National Archives--I have (and I'm sure quite a few other WAISers have, too).
I started there working on my dissertation that concerned, in part, the Allied occupation of Italy in World War Two. It also required work at the British National Archives (the old PRO) at Kew and the Imperial War Museum which had a beautiful reading room, up in the dome. In Washington I was able to work in the old archives building on Pennsylvania Ave which was a real delight. Later most of the scholars were kicked out and exiled to College Park, Maryland, which is a very nice facility but pretty isolated. Apparently Pennsylvania Ave remains open for genealogists and others looking into their family histories and, for some reason, it's still open for Civil War scholars.
One interesting anecdote--sometimes my work necessitated that I use the military archives in Suitland, MD. The National Archives provides a shuttle bus out there. The place looks like the poor relative, a kind of drab warehouse with a 1960s dull reading room. Maybe to show off a little--to prove that there was more here that meets the eye--the archivist took me into the area where the documents were kept. It was astonishingly enormous and reminded me of the place--indeed in the National Archives--at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" where they "file" the Ark of the Covenant. It looked as if that scene was actually filmed where I was standing.
This summer I'll be doing some preliminary snooping at archives in Milan and Bologna for my new project on the Italian Home Front during WWII.
JE comments: Some of my fondest memories are of doing archival research--experiencing the quietness and the thrill of digging into people's long-ago business. It's a splendid feeling.
Best of success with your summer digging, Roy!
Researching at the National Archives, College Park
(Timothy Brown, USA
04/15/17 6:52 AM)
I fully agree that doing research in an archival collection can be both intellectually and personally rewarding, especially when you can do so by seeing original documents rather than electronic copies of them.
I, too, did research in the (US) National Archives, but when virtually all of its collection was in the old Archives building. So I never had to travel all the way out to the the wilds of College Park.
During my 15 years with Hoover I collected a number of interesting archival collections in cooperation with our late and much lamented WAIS colleague, Bill Ratliff, that are now in the Hoover archives.
Among these are the surviving archives of several Central American and Mexican guerrilla movements. Those now available to researchers include the greater part of the surviving archives of the Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance (better known as the Contras), among them those of three parts of their organization, their civilian political leadership, two largest guerrilla forces, the FDN/ERN and YATAMA, the Miskito Indians' forces.
In addition, Bill and I were able to collect and deposit at Hoover the surviving central archives of the 1959-1969 FSLN, smaller collections of the FMLN (El Salvador's Faribundo Martí Front) and less well-known revolutionary movements in Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico.
I also authorized Hoover to make and retain copies of hour to hour-and-a-half-long one-on-one interviews I did with former Contra, Sandinista and Faribundo Martí guerrillas, some surviving original leaders of the Sandinista, Costa Rican, Salvadoran and Mexican Marxist revolutionary movements, and other key early participants in the revolutionary movements in Cuba and Latin America, such as Noel Guerrero Santiago and Elizabeth Burgos-Debray. These, and more, are available in the Hoover archives.
Hoover now also has a verbatim copy of the Costa Rican legislature's investigation into the role the Costa Rican government's cooperation in transporting arms from Cuba directly to the Sandinista armed forces in Costa Rica (that they were shipped to them from Colombia via Panama was a cover story).
I could go on. But this is already very long--and may well have angered those of my readers who prefer to believe the fabricated Cold War propaganda versions of the revolutionary movements in Central America that believe what they themselves secretly documented in their original records.
JE comments: The anniversary of Bill Ratliff's passing was this week, on April 11th (2014). It's already been three years. The last time I saw him was at lunch just a few weeks before that, when he picked me up (appropriately) at the Hoover, where I was doing research on the Ronald Hilton archives.
Bill Ratliff, my predecessor as WAIS President, was an outstanding and tireless scholar, as well as a good friend. I'm still shocked by his sudden passing.
- Researching at the National Archives, College Park (Timothy Brown, USA 04/15/17 6:52 AM)