Open House at the National Archives-New York office

The Northeast Region (located in New York City) of National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had an open house on October 13, 2009.  For those who had never used the New York center of archives (covering NY, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), it was a great opportunity to get acquainted with the resources of the facility.  Though I was there on work-related business, it overlapped with my genealogy hobby.  There were a number of genealogists there, too.

Dorothy Dougherty, in charge of public programs at NARA

Dorothy Dougherty (NARA staff in charge of public programs) showed a video from their website and provided an overview of the history of the United States and its archives.  The value in going through the institution’s history helped explain why certain materials are not there.  Although everyone had a chuckle as she went through a history of the fires (there had been many), it was quite instructive in revealing why certain records no longer exist, and why others do exist even if you would expect them not to be around. That’s the reason the 1890 US census is mostly gone – it was consumed by fire because it was being stored at the Department of Commerce, rather than the area where the rest of the censuses were kept.  She concluded her talk with a quick tour of how to navigate NARA’s website.

Staff showed us some interesting artifacts followed by a brief behind-the-scenes walking tour of their stack area.  To say there is tons of material is an understatement.  It seems as if the New York office is loaded with records of ship crews docking in New York for the past 200 years (ship captains had to keep inventories of crews to determine when any of them would stay behind).  Virtually any federal activity that took place in the New York region (which includes New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands) is kept mostly in the New York office (at 201Varick St. – literally at the Houston St. stop on the no. 1 train).
Of the 9 full-time staff members in the New York office, 2 of them are devoted to programming and outreach.  If a group wants to meet in the archives and have (or customize) their own tour, Ms. Dougherty would be one of the people to arrange such things.  Seems like a great opportunity to plan a visit for a group.

Raffle at the NARA open houseAfter the tour, the staff held a raffle of several copies of a newly published book of photographs from the archive.  After the official end of the program, NARA staff was eager to answer questions from individual attendees.

Materials concerning "Happy Birthday To You" on display at NARA

So what is the connection between this nice NARA visit and the performing arts?  There was a prominent display of materials documenting the copyright dispute concerning the song “Happy Birthday To You.”  (Wikipedia has a summary of the legal entanglements involving this most familiar of songs in English, due to the belief that the song is still in copyright.)

It was very pleasant and educational visit (I need more time to pursue some genealogy threads!).  I highly recommend groups contact Ms. Dougherty and arrange a group visit.  Entrance to the 12th floor headquarters of the National Archives office

Afterwards, staff was eager to answer individuals’s queries.Entrance to the 12th floor headquarters of the National Archives office

The Dance Heritage Coalition recently announced that its two-year project on fair use and copyright issues is now complete.  The results will be published in a booklet, Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use of Dance-related Materials: Recommendations for Librarians, Archivists, Curators, and Other Collections Staff.  Hard copies of the publication will be available after today by contacting DHC project director Libby Smigel, (202) 223-8392 or  A pdf version also will be available at

Sheet music cover for "Love's Intense in Tents'

Sheet music cover for "Love's Intense in Tents'

TheaterMania reports today that the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization will be sold to Imagem Music Group (which last year bought Boosey & Hawkes).   Long time Executive Director of  the RHO, Theodore S. Chapin will be retained in a leadership capacity.  The full press release from Imagem is available here.

Image credit: NYPL Digital Gallery Image ID: g99c214_001

I was only half awake when I heard this story on NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’ earlier today regarding the pending lawsuit between the estate of James Brown and stock photo concern, Corbis, but it does make for some entertaining reading (though the transcription has a few errors) or listening. Most interesting perhaps was to hear Corbis described as a “photo archive.” Do “archivists” think of it as being what we traditionally view as archives in the public sense? Isn’t Corbis just another shop? Albeit a very well-stocked one. On its corporate Web site, Corbis describes itself as a “creative resource.”

Be that as it may, the story also reminded me about another blog post that I had started here several months ago, but aborted mainly because it occurred at around the same time that problems first began with the media uploading platform on WordPress (an issue hopefully resolved for good now) and I was unable to insert the above image of an early performance of James Brown and the Flames (hopefully neither the Library of Congress nor the estate of James Brown will mind me doing so now).

Way back in April there were various reports in the media that an exhibition of the late singer’s memorabilia was being planned by the I. P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium at South Carolina State University. At that time it had been announced that the show would open at some point during the summer, so I decided to check back on its progress. This time around, I discovered the museum’s own blog, which indicates that the exhibit will open in October 2008 (to coincide with SCSU’s homecoming week). Something else to add to your calendars!

Image credit: James Brown and the Flames during live performance, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, Digital ID (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3c21427