National Archives News

Shogan Speaks at Historical Society Event, Visits New York City Archives

By Angela Tudico | National Archives News

NEW YORK, September 27, 2023 — Archivist of the United States Dr. Colleen Shogan traveled to New York City last week to speak at the New-York Historical Society and to visit the National Archives office in lower Manhattan.  

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Dr. Colleen Shogan, right, Archivist of the United States, speaks with journalist Soledad O'Brien during a New-York Historical Society "fireside chat" event in New York City, September 19, 2023. Photo courtesy of the National Archives Foundation.

Shogan’s visit to New York City kicked off with a Fireside Chat hosted by the New-York Historical Society as part of their Denise and Bernard Schwartz Distinguished Speakers Series and presented jointly with the National Archives Foundation. Soledad O’Brien, journalist and National Archives Foundation Board of Directors member, moderated the chat.

In front of a full auditorium and more than 600 virtual attendees, Shogan and O’Brien discussed everything from the Archivist’s nomination process to Shogan’s role at the National Archives to born-digital records. Shogan stressed the importance of access.

“I’m going to focus a lot, as the Archivist, on access,” Shogan said. “And that means improving in-person experiences at the National Archives, if you come and see us and you want to look at our records as a visitor, as a tourist.”

She continued by discussing the importance of digital access and the online experience.

“We hope that everybody will come visit us in person, but we know that’s not realistic,” Shogan said. “It’s a big trip to get to DC, one of the records centers, or a Presidential library, so we have to provide those records online. … We have close to 300 million records in our Catalog, which is amazing, making the National Archives the largest digital archive in the world.”

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Archivist Kelly McAnnaney, left, shows Dr. Colleen Shogan, Archivist of the United States, historically significant records from the holdings of the National Archives at New York City, September 20, 2023. National Archives photo by Angela Tudico.

The next day, Shogan visited the National Archives at New York City, located in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. That office holds permanent records created by federal courts and agencies for New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“We have heavily requested records, like petitions for naturalization, and some very famous records, like the original plans for the Statue of Liberty and the RMS Titanic limitation of liability court case,” explained archivist Kelly McAnnaney. “The New York office’s lesser-known holdings are equally important, however, because they reveal how the federal government worked and how various programs played out at the local level.” 

McAnnaney cited the War Manpower Commission Regional Central Files, indicative of similar records held at other National Archives locations, that help tell the story of how the government recruited workers during World War II

The office is one of 42 National Archives locations across the country. It features a Welcome Center, Learning Center, and Research Room, as well as exhibits throughout the Custom House’s public spaces.

The Learning Center hosts educator professional development sessions and student field trip visits with a focus on themes, such as "Civil Rights" and "Exploring America's Diversity,” as well as “Student Hands-On Archives'' programs. 

Exhibits can be found in the Welcome Center, the New York on the Record Gallery, and all through the Custom House. Current exhibits include Matthew Henson: From the North Pole to the Custom House, located near the Rotunda, and Be it Remembered, which explores treaties with Native nations and was developed in partnership with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, who share space in the building. 

“A lot of my first four months as Archivist has involved learning about the archives itself and also traveling to meet staff and visit as many facilities as possible, so I really can understand both the breadth and depth of the National Archives,” said Shogan. “It was terrific to meet the staff here, to see their notable holdings, like the Susan B. Anthony indictment for illegal voting, and to see the exceptional Custom House.”

The National Archives at New York City is located in lower Manhattan near Battery Park. The research room is open Monday–Friday. Appointments are required.