About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Information Hunters: When Librarians, Soldiers, and Spies Banded Together in World War II Europe"

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
January 23, 2020

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us for this afternoon’s program, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through Facebook or YouTube.

Before we hear from Kathy Peiss about her new book, Information Hunters, I’d like to tell you about two other programs coming up soon in the McGowan Theater.

At 7 p.m. tonight, we will host a screening of One Woman, One Vote in honor of the 25th anniversary of that PBS documentary. The film documents the 70-year struggle for women's suffrage that culminated in the passing of the 19th Amendment.

And next Thursday, January 30, at 7 p.m., we’ll show a special 90-minute compilation of a new three-part PBS series A More or Less Perfect Union. U.S. Appellate Court Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg will introduce the screening and take audience questions afterward.

To keep informed about events throughout the year, check our website, Archives.gov, or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Check out their website—archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about them and join online.

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During World War II, getting the correct information was critical to the American war effort. While we might first imagine spies sneaking stolen secrets out of occupied countries, much useful information was found in published sources—in books, newspapers, and other documents.

Kathy Peiss’s latest book explores how the quest for information led to the recruitment of librarians, scholars, and archivists for this important war work in Europe. Information-gathering was a natural role for librarians and archivists, who were skilled in collecting and organizing books and documents.

Their work in the war years has left its own archival trail that Peiss and other scholars can now follow through a number of research collections. Peiss herself sifted through the OSS and State Department records at the National Archives in College Park and at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in Iowa.

Researchers today pursue their missions in research rooms and online, relying on the skills of archives and library professionals. I’m very proud of our staff here at the National Archives and their daily work to assist the modern “information hunters.”

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Kathy Peiss is the Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches courses on modern American cultural history and the history of American sexuality, women, and gender.

She is the author of Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York,  Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style, and Hope in a Jar: The Making of America's Beauty Culture, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and named one of Amazon's 1999 top 10 books in Women's Studies.

Peiss is a Fellow of the Society of American Historians and served on the society’s Executive Board. In addition to writing and teaching, she has served as a consultant to museums, archives, and public history projects.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Kathy Peiss.