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April 2013 visit to NARA (College Park)

Posted: Mon May 20, 2013 5:32 pm
by MadDog
I was able to make another trip to NARA in April, and I thought I would relate my experiences.

Since 2013, the largest change is that the hours of operation have changed, due to the sequester. At the time of this writing, there are no evening hours. Formerly, Wed, Thurs and Friday, the archive was open from 5:00-9:00 PM. Hopefully, once funding gets normalized, these hours will be in effect, but not as of now.

There were no large changes in policy in terms of what you can bring in.

Second Floor (paper documents): no real changes here. For those who havnt been there, I should relate a trick I use to minimize the downtime waiting for requested documents. You are allowed to have 2 carts of documents you requested. However, you can only have 1 cart checked at any one time. If you want to avoid waiting for documents you request, you need to be working one cart you have out, and turning it back in for re-filing as fast as you can. Then check out the other cart. By cycling carts in and out this way, you can maximize the number of requests you make for new documents. Nothing is worse than sitting around doing nothing while waiting for new documents. Using this technique, I was able to scan over 2000 pages over the course of 5 days.

Third Floor (cartography): no large changes here but a few discoveries. First, the set of Lage West/Frankreich maps that myself and many other have been copying were suddenly discovered to be the master copies, and not the floor copies. This happened right during my visit so it caused some confusion. I dont know how the switch occurred, but the guide to these maps refers to the master set and not the floor set (different box # and contents). Therefore, if you are going to copy Lage West/Frankreich (actually, all non Lage ost), you must realize the NARA guide numbering no longer applies. I dont know if the same problem happened with Lage Ost, but you should ask before you request any of these maps.

Second, a new set of maps was discovered - the Miscellaneous German map sets. These are a mixture of field command maps (Armies) and geographical maps. These maps were evidently stored in the second floor where no one knew about them. I was able to look through box 183 (19th Army) and boxes 248-249 (Holland). The 19th Army box contained maps for August 1944 and some earlier and might be useful. This leads me to believe that other boxes with Army maps might have value. The maps in the Holland boxes were all in pretty bad shape and had few markings. While I hope people explore other geographical boxes, I would guess these are less valuable maps.

Third, when trying to locate these misc. maps, the archivists accidently brought out several large blue-green boxes, thinking these were the maps I was looking for. It turns out, the boxes paper contained Lage Ost maps. When i asked the archivists about this, I was told that these Lage Ost maps had not been turned into transparencies. I can only assume there are people here who are interested in the fact that there are Lage Ost out there that are virtually unseen. The downside, of course, is that I dont know what you can do with a large paper map (too big for the map scanner), other than take photos of various areas.

Fourth Floor (still photos): no changes there

Fifth floor (microfilm): no changes. This is still a floor packed with all the NARA rolls of RG242 (and other RG) rolls - and almost no good way to get info out of them. The film viewers are still low resolution and poorly lit. The one bit of possible good news is that one of the staffers told me they were planning on getting a ScanPro2000 for the floor. For those that dont know, the SP2000, is a small size film digitizer that saves high resolution pictures, and quickly too. I used one at Cantigny and the results were quite good. This would finally be a good way to get larger numbers of better quality shots off the microfilm.

This was another very productive trip. The staff is always helpful and the document check-out is very smooth.

Mad Dog