US National Archives and Records Administration

I’ve just returned from an amazingly fruitful trip to the US National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, MD (aka NARA II) where I was researching the history of the American Forces Television Network. Thanks, in part, to Larry Suid, who wrote the official fiftieth anniversary history of the AFRTS and kept meticulous records–including transcripts of the 130 or so interviews he did with various founders, DJs, on-air personalities, engineers, Hollywood liaisons, and policy makers–I found a goldmine!

AFKN Pamphlet, circa 1960s

Pamphlet for AFKN, circa 1960s. NARA II, College Park, MD.

Records at NARA II include the textual records of the Department of Defense and the US Information Agency (USIA), as well as millions of still photos, posters and graphics from all military branches, and very rare film and audio footage from USIA overseas activities, military radio and TV programs, indoctrination materials, and so on. Best of all, the motion picture division will allow you to tape, record, or download copies of stuff that has been processed for public viewing. Alas, much stuff has NOT been so processed; thus, I recommend contacting the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Research Room staff well before you visit so they can transfer non-public materials to a publicly consumable form before you arrive!

I know some of you have also visited the site, but for those who haven’t, you should contact the archivists at least 6 weeks before your visit to ensure materials are there, available and cleared for use (if necessary). Be as specific as possible about the materials you are interested in, including file and box numbers if they are listed in the NARA catalogue: https://catalog.archives.gov/. Note that many specifics are not listed in the catalogue, but your first day involves a consultation with a staff member who can help you identify materials and fill out pull slips. On day 1, arrive early to get a “Researcher’s Card,” which takes about 15 minutes, then go directly to the consulting room. Pull your stuff and go! They have a limited number of scanning stands available for both cameras and iphones. I used one of the stands for iPhone and the ScannerPro app ($3.99) to copy 35 boxes worth of material in 5 days and sent it all immediately to the cloud! Needless to say, I highly recommend ScannerPro.

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