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Prepared Remarks of Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero for the symposium, “The Civil War: Fresh Perspectives.” National Archives Building, Washington, DC

Who is the Archivist?

David S. Ferriero

David S. Ferriero The Archivist of the United States is the head of our agency, appointed by the President of the United States.

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What's an Archivist?

November 20, 2010

Good morning. I am David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and welcome to the National Archives’ symposium, “The Civil War: Fresh Perspectives.”  And a special welcome to our C-SPAN viewers.

Before we begin, I’d like to mention two upcoming programs that will take place here in the William G. McGowan Theater.

On December 2, a panel will discuss “Lincoln and Haiti: Colonization and Haitian Recognition During the Civil War,” touching on Lincoln’s interest in colonization and emancipation, and how the Haiti colonization project influenced the decision to extend U.S. diplomatic recognition to Haiti in 1862.

And on December 9, we welcome David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon Eisenhower to talk about their new book, Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961–1969.

Both events begin at 7 p.m.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events. There are copies in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet so you can receive the Calendar by regular mail or e-mail. You’ll also find brochures about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved in the National Archives is to become a member of the Foundation for the National Archives. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby.

And last—visit the Archives Shop one floor up or through Archives.gov. You’ll find an assortment of products and publications relating to the National Archives and its holdings.

We have a truly distinguished set of panelists with us, all noted experts on the Civil War and its consequences.

And “Consequences” is the subtitle of our major exhibition upstairs—“Discovering the Civil War.” Part 2 of this exhibition opened last week, and it explores—through the evidence left by the participants—how the war affected American lives on a personal level and on the national scale. “Discovering the Civil War,” which will remain on display through April 17, features the most extensive display ever assembled from Civil War records held in the National Archives.

Historian James McPherson called the Civil War “the most traumatic experience endured by any generation of Americans.” Beyond the battlefield losses, though, it transformed the nation. It generated changes to our Constitution, expanded our concept of citizenship, and sped the adoption of new inventions and technologies.

As commemorations of its 150th anniversary get under way, the Civil War is in the news again, and some people may wonder, “Don’t we already know all there is to know about this war?” After all, a quick Google search on U.S. Civil War returns more than 130 million hits.

Yet as our exhibit title of “Discovering” and this symposium’s theme of “Fresh Perspectives” point out, we are still learning about the Civil War. At day’s end, I’m sure all of you, along with our panelists, will have a deeper understanding of this turning point in our nation’s history and will have made some discoveries of your own.

I want to acknowledge and thank the Foundation for the National Archives, whose generous support has made this symposium possible, the University of Richmond, the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia, and the Civil War Roundtable of the District of Columbia.

Now, I’d like to introduce Burrus Carnahan, who is president of the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia. He also a lecturer in law at George Washington University Law School and is a foreign affairs officer in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation at the U.S. Department of State.

Previously, he was a consultant on international arms control issues and served for 20 years as a lawyer in the U.S. Air Force, where he specialized in the law of war. He has participated in several international negotiations on arms control and the laws of war and is the author of numerous articles on those subjects. His book, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Law of War, was published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2007.

Please welcome Burrus Carnahan . . .

Burrus Carnahan spoke, and the  Archivist returned to the podium

We’re happy to have with us today Wendy Swanson, the president of the Civil War Round Table of DC. Ms. Swanson is a career Federal employee with the Social Security Administration and currently serves as a Division Director with that Agency’s Appeals Council.

She is active is several local historical organizations and serves on the board for the Lyceum Company—Alexandria’s history museum. A long-time member of one of the symposium’s other co-sponsors, the Lincoln Group of D.C., she edits that organization’s publication The Lincolnian.

Ladies and gentlemen, Wendy Swanson . . .

Wendy Swanson spoke, and the Archivist returned to the podium

Our moderator for today’s symposium is a historian whose scholarly pursuits have won recognition from the academic community and the wider world—most recently a profile in the Washington Post.

Ed Ayers has been president of the University of Richmond since 2007. Previously Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia, where he began teaching in 1980, Ayers was named National Professor of the Year and won the Bancroft Prize for distinguished writing in American history for In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America. He maintains an active scholarly career, teaching first-year students at UR, speaking widely, collaborating with the University’s Digital Scholarship Lab, and co-hosting a nationally syndicated radio show, “BackStory,” called by the Post “a sort of ‘Car Talk’ for history buffs.”

While at the University of Virginia, he directed “The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War,” a digital archive of primary sources that document the lives of people in Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, during the era of the American Civil War.

A fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Ayers serves on the boards of the American Council for Education, the National Humanities Center, and a range of historical and community organizations in Richmond.

Please welcome Edward Ayers . . .