About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for June 18 Treasury Event in the Rotunda

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.

The AOTUS Blog
What's an Archivist?

Welcome! I'm David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it is an honor to have you all here in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building. This hallowed hall holds our founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

John Russell Pope designed this building as a "temple to American History." He believed only a monumental building in his beloved neoclassical style could appropriately showcase the most treasured documents of our democracy. He made the National Archives Building taller than the neighboring structures, surrounded it with a moat, and set it at an angle to emphasize the importance of this building to the American people. He wanted everyone to know that records matter.

Let me give you a little background on the National Archives. We opened our doors in 1935 with a mission to collect, protect, and preserve the records of the U.S. Government. And, most importantly, to make the records available so that the American public can hold its government accountable and learn from our past. We are the final destination of the most important records of the United States Government — that one to three percent deemed by departments and agencies to be important enough for permanent preservation here.

Today that collection translates into about 12 billion sheets of paper, 50 million photographs, miles of video and film, and more than 5 billion electronic records.

This includes the General Records of the Department of the Treasury, The Records of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the U.S. Mint.

…On March 9, 1899, a former union soldier wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury and admitted to stealing an extra loaf of bread while in the Army in 1863. Thirty-six years later he wanted to clear his conscience and remitted one dollar "…which I supposed will cover the amount, with compound interest…." The letter was sent anonymously.

…A handwritten note dated December 8, 1906, sent by Augustus Saint Gaudens to the director of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia informing him that the models for the new double eagle coin were ready to be sent to his facility.  

…A letter dated August 7, 1907, written by President Theodore Roosevelt to George Cortel, Secretary of the Treasury, urging Cortel to expedite the production of the new coins – the Eagle and Double Eagle - designed by the late Augustus Saint Gaudens who had passed away four days before.  

…the "cancelled check" for the purchase of Alaska for 7.2 million dollars dated August 1, 1868.

--the check containing the salary for President Abraham Lincoln, dated January 7, 1862 (for $2,083.33).

… the numerous accepted and rejected designs for stamps and currency throughout our nation's history.

And many more.

History comes to life here; we house the tangible reminders of where we have been and how far we have come. And each record, large or small, is a representation of a greater story.

Thank you.