Press/Journalists

Press Release
January 8, 2009

National Archives Celebrates 75th Anniversary

NARA 75th AnniversaryWashington, DC…The National Archives announced today the year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary. Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 19, 1934, the legislation established a National Archives to preserve the permanently valuable papers of the Federal government. Today the institution has become a cornerstone of our democracy, making billions of documents created by Federal officials available for inspection, thereby holding public officials accountable for their actions.

To celebrate this milestone, the National Archives has planned a number of special activities and free public programs throughout the year. These events will highlight the history of the Archives and the breadth of the unique holdings.

Today marks the launch of the anniversary web site (www.archives.gov) that shines a spotlight on defining moments in the agency’s history through the decades with photo galleries, notices of special events at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, as well as at the 14 regional archives and 12 Presidential libraries located throughout the nation. The web site also features testimonials from researchers and visitors who describe their discoveries at the National Archives. These include personal stories of individuals who recognized photos of their ancestors that were featured in one of our exhibitions; as well as accounts of long complex research adventures to discover the proverbial golden needle in a haystack of documents. Researchers are encouraged to submit their own discovery stories for this page. A specially-commissioned commemorative poster and other anniversary items that will become keepsakes of this milestone anniversary are for sale on the web site.

Big records, big events, and big ideas are the focus of a new major exhibition entitled, “Big! Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the National Archives”. Opening on March 13, 2009, in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, treasures such as the 13-foot scroll of the Articles of Confederation which was the first constitution of the United States, the size 22 sneakers of basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal, and one of only 25 surviving copies of the first printing of the Declaration of Independence by John Dunlap will be included in the exhibition. All of the items in “Big!” are pieces of the American story—writ large.

In June of 2009, the National Archives, in cooperation with the Foundation for the National Archives, will publish a richly illustrated coffee-table book featuring the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill or Rights, and many of the one-of-a-kind documents, photographs, maps and three-dimensional objects that the National Archives holds in trust for the American people.

To celebrate this milestone anniversary, Prologue, the National Archives flagship quarterly publication, will feature a specially-themed issue tracing the emergence of the National Archives as the nation's recordkeeper and steward of the documents of its history.

Two national awards recognizing significant achievements in genealogy research based on records from the National Archives will be presented this year to winners of essay contests.

Sixty-eight years ago, at the dedication of his Presidential library, Franklin Roosevelt said, “To bring together the records of the past and to house them in buildings where they will be preserved for the use of men and women in the future, a Nation must believe in three things. It must believe in the past. It must believe in the future. It must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future.”

The National Archives remains committed to President Roosevelt’s credo. It continues to preserve the records of the past, so that upcoming generations can make informed decisions about the future of our nation.

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For more information about programs and activities for the 75th anniversary, contact the National Archives public affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

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