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Sleepover at the National Archives

For the first time ever, the National Archives in Washington, DC offered families the opportunity to spend a night with “History, Heroes and Treasures.” On January 25, 2014, participants joined author/History Channel host Brad Meltzer and author/journalist Cokie Roberts for an evening of family-fun activities, historical missions and discoveries. Guests brought sleeping bags to spend the night alongside the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights in the Archives’ iconic rotunda. A delicious pancake breakfast was served the next morning. Future sleepovers are planned; check website for updates:…. This event was supported by the Foundation for the National Archives; Mars, Incorporated; American Heritage Chocolate; Ridgewells Catering; Penguin Young Readers Group; HarperCollins; The Coca-Cola Company; Minute Maid; and DASANI.

Photo: The National Archives Building from Constition Avenue.

Before the National Archives was created in 1934, individual government agencies were in charge of maintaining their own records. Some took great care of the materials, but many did not.

Congress established the National Archives in 1934 to centralize federal record keeping, with the Archivist of the United States as its chief administrator.  When Archives staff members first began searching for old government files to catalog and store in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, they found many disorganized records that had been put away carelessly. In many cases, fire, insects, heat, water, and sunlight caused quite a bit of damage.

After an extensive survey, the Archivist of the United States reported in 1937 that nearly 1,360,000 cubic feet of records should be transferred to the National Archives. The volume of records continued to grow, as New Deal and then World War II records poured in.

From one building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, the National Archives has grown to 38 facilities nationwide, from Atlanta to Anchorage.

Now called the National Archives and Records Administration, the agency administers regional archives, Federal records centers, Presidential libraries, the Federal Register, and the National Historical and Publications Commmission.

Photo: Rotunda of the National Archives Building

Originally, each branch and agency of the U.S. government was responsible for maintaining its own documents, which often resulted in the loss and destruction of records. Congress established the National Archives Establishment in 1934 to centralize federal record keeping, with the Archivist of the United States as its chief administrator. The National Archives was incorporated into the General Services Administration in 1949, but in 1985 it became an independent agency as NARA (National Archives and Records Administration).

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