About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for the UN Foundation

Greetings and welcome to the National Archives or as I like to call it “My House.”

Architect 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.

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. Today that collection translates into over 13 billion sheets of paper, 43 million photographs, miles and miles of video and film, and more than 6 billion electronic records—the fastest growing record form. These records include Oaths of Allegiance signed by George Washington and his troops at Valley Forge, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty with Napoleon Bonaparte’s signature, the check for 7.2m dollars with which we purchased Alaska, as well as the Tweets that are being created by the White House as I am speaking right now.

My staff pulled from our stacks a few special documents for you to view this evening. I hope you had an opportunity to see these treasures, including the UN Charter and the nomination of the first woman to become the U.S. Secretary of State.

Our upcoming exhibit “Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote” opens on March 8, 2019. It commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment by looking beyond suffrage parades and protests to the often overlooked story behind this landmark moment in American history. This fuller retelling of the struggle for women’s voting rights illustrates the dynamic involvement of American women across the spectrum of race, ethnicity and class to reveal what it really takes to win the vote for one half of the people.  I hope you will come see it next year.

Since the National Archives was created, we have welcomed visitors from all over the world into this building to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. And tonight, we welcome you. History comes to life through our records. Each document, large or small, is a representation of a greater story, many of which are still being told today in daily life. Enjoy the rest of your evening!