2015 Press Releases

National Archives Commemorates Memorial Day with Video and Programs Nationwide
Press Release · Monday, June 8, 1863

Washington, DC

Washington, DC…To commemorate Memorial Day, the National Archives today released a video short and will hold programs at Presidential Libraries nationwide.

Video Short: Memorial Day 2015: Why it Matters

Timed to the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s death and the upcoming sesquicentennial of the 1866 founding of the Grand Army of the Republic (the fraternal organization of Union Civil War veterans), the National Archives today released “Memorial Day 2015: Why it Matters.”. The video features Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero and National Archives legislative archivist Rodney Ross.

Rodney Ross shows the importance of National Archives records to everyday Americans through the prism of a single National Archives document–a page from the muster roll of a Civil War soldier from Ross’s own hometown of Batavia, Illinois. This soldier, Union Private Oscar F. Cooley, was killed during the Vicksburg siege on June 8, 1863. Ross recounts his Memorial Day memories as a child growing up in Batavia, and shares an image of a statue from Batavia's West Side Cemetery inscribed with the names of Batavians, primarily those with the 124th Illinois Volunteer Regiment, who fought for the Union in the Civil War.

Ross speaks at the Grand Army of the Republic Monument on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC–just across the street from the National Archives Building. This monument honors the sacrifice of Union soldiers who fought and died to keep the United States of America “a free and undivided republic.” He explains the origin of Memorial Day, the holiday originally called “Decoration Day.” The holiday was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by General John Logan, himself a Civil War Union veteran, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. Logan added: “Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains and their deaths a tattoo of rebellion tyranny in arms.” No longer an “unknown” soldier, in this video, Ross honors fellow Batavian Private Cooley and his supreme sacrifice.

See more information on Batavia, IL, and Memorial Day.

Memorial Day Programs at Presidential Libraries Nationwide

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, IA
Monday, May 25 at 2 p.m., front lawn
The Eastern Iowa Brass Band will perform a free concert on the front lawn. Related temporary exhibit: “The Making of the Great Humanitarian: Herbert Hoover and World War I.” Learn how the war dramatically altered the life of Herbert Hoover from successful mining engineer to “The Great Humanitarian.” The exhibit includes a recreated war trench that visitors can walk through.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum (FDR Library), Hyde Park, NY
Friday, May 22, 7-9 p.m., Henry A. Wallace Center

The FDR Library kicks off its Memorial Day weekend programming with its 12th annual USO Show. This year's family-friendly show features entertainment including live Big Band music from the 1930s and 40s, comedy and juggling, historic newsreels, and more. This event is free and open to the public.

Saturday, May 23, and Sunday, May 24, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., front lawn
The FDR Library presents historic military displays and a World War II encampment on the Library's front lawn. The New York Army National Guard and re-enactors in battle dress will share their love of history with military enthusiasts, families, teachers, and students. Collections of military uniforms, weapons, period military vehicles, and insignia from 1917 to the present will be displayed. This display is free and open to the public.

Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, Independence, MO
Admission charges for all veterans & active military members are waived from VE Day (May 8) through VJ Day (August 15).

Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Abilene, KS
Monday, May 25, 10:30 – 11 a.m., the Pylons

The Abilene VFW and American Legion chapters will conduct an annual ceremony. Free admission year-round for active duty military.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA
Saturday, May 23, and Sunday, May 24
–free trolley service from the Copley Square Bus Shelter in downtown Boston to Columbia Point and the JFK Library.

Monday, May 25 at 11:10 am and 1:10 pm.–Museum highlight tours will include President Kennedy’s wartime service.

Monday, May 25 at 1:30 p.m.–“Race for Space” program
Free admission to active military members with ID; reduced admission for veterans.

Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Yorba Linda, CA
Monday, May 25 – free admission all day

11 a.m. - Wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial sites of President and Mrs. Nixon.

1 p.m. - Memorial Day program with remarks by U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General Daniel Yoo, Deputy Commanding General, 1st Marine Division; patriotic musical program by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band; and, a formal 21-Gun Salute and Presentation of the Colors by U.S. Marines.

3:30 p.m. – Musical performance by the 90-member Placentia Symphonic Band in the East Room.

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, Atlanta, GA
The Carter Library will be starting the annual Blue Star Museum program on Memorial Day with free admission to active duty military and their families through Labor Day.

Related Online Exhibition: Discovering the Civil War

In 2010, the National Archives peeled back 150 years of accumulated analysis, interpretation, and opinion to reveal a Civil War that was little-known and even more rarely displayed. The groundbreaking exhibition presented the most extensive display ever assembled from the incomparable Civil War holdings of the National Archives, and took a fresh look at the Civil War through little-known stories, seldom-seen documents, and unusual perspectives.

National Archives Civil War records

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For press information contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

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