Preserving the History of the National Society - The Work of an NSDAR Archivist

Written by: Amanda Fulcher, NSDAR Archivist
April 23, 2015

I am thrilled to be today’s guest blogger and update everyone on the many exciting things happening in the NSDAR Archives. As an archivist at DAR Headquarters it is my responsibility to select materials for the archives, to preserve them, and make them available for current and future researchers. The way that this is carried out can vary from project to project and is being redefined by the digital era we now live in. 

Providing access to the many treasures in the NSDAR Archives is an important part of my daily activities. While the digital age has posed many challenges to archives, it has also brought an equal number of opportunities; this is especially evident on the topic of making materials from the archives available to the DAR membership and the public. Previously, visiting the DAR Headquarters was the only way one could view our exhibits or conduct archival research. Now we have a number of exhibits online and we can assist some researchers over email with scans of documents or by referring them to online tools such as the Digital Magazine Archive. We also assist with research and access to the NSDAR Archives photo collection for images to be used in magazines, books, videos, and online historical photo slideshows to share the visual history of our Society with the members and the public.

View a slideshow of a small sampling of some rarely seen items from the NSDAR Archives Collection.

We are continually working hard to increase access to the archives. Thanks to generous President General’s Project donations, we are wrapping up a large and expensive project to digitize the NSDAR Archives Audio Visual Collection. There are many gems in this collection that we were not able to view, since the technology used to access these materials is outdated and obsolete. As we finish up this project, the Public Relations Department will be helping us share these videos with the DAR membership through DAR’s website and social media. Several videos have already been shared.

The archivists in the Office of the Historian General oversee and care for the Americana Collection, the NSDAR’s collection of early American imprints and manuscripts. In the near future we hope to further increase access to the gems housed at the DAR Headquarters by putting the catalogue for the Americana Collection online. We are also planning a large project to digitize the Americana Collection.  Digitizing this collection will have two main benefits. First it will allow us to easily share our early American manuscripts outside the walls of the DAR Headquarters. Second, scanning the collection will help us preserve the collection for future generations. When materials are scanned, you will not need to access them as often, therefore you eliminate many potential threats that could damage the documents.

The archivists have been working hard behind the scenes of the Celebrate 125! campaign. Throughout this commemorative year we are celebrating DAR’s history and accomplishments in magazine articles and features, a video series, and social media campaigns.  While you enjoy the images and stories from DAR’s past, keep in mind that many of them originated and have been preserved by the NSDAR Archives. As an archivist, I find it rewarding when our items are showcased and shared in this way. It helps increase access to the archives in a way that was unimaginable a decade ago.

One of the big challenges the archival profession faces in the digital age is managing what we call “born-digital” records. These are records that are created in a digital state and will never exist on paper. These records may include the various documents stored on your computer’s hard drive, websites, and this blog. Moving forward, many archival collections will be hybrid collections, containing both paper and digital materials. For example if we want to properly preserve Mrs. Young’s legacy in the archives in order for future generations to understand her activities and work, we will need to preserve both her paper records as well as her born-digital records. Records have changed, correspondence is carried out over email and the Congress Herald is distributed electronically. Although the NSDAR Archives staff has not completely determined how we will preserve NSDAR’s born-digital records, we are working hard to define the policies, procedures, and work flows that will help us capture this information.

The NSDAR Archives is always seeking new records, such as photographs or objects that help document and tell the story of the National Society.  If you have original documents, photographs, or objects and are interested in donating them to the NSDAR Archives, we would love to hear from you. We are specifically looking for materials that relate to Executive Officers and DAR national level projects, such as the Madonna of the Trail or veterans’ programs. Please contact the NSDAR Archives at either or 202-879-3256 prior to bringing any items to the DAR Headquarters. If a donation is considered significant, it can be presented during the Gift Acceptance Ceremony at Continental Congress.  The NSDAR Archives was built by generous donations from members like you. Thank you for your support!

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