Prologue Magazine

Looking Back—Looking Ahead

Prologue at a Half-Century

Winter 2017–18, Vol. 49, no. 4

By David S. Ferriero

Archivist of the United States


With this issue, Prologue ends a half-century of print publication. Since 1969, Prologue has been a vehicle for unlocking the rich, interesting stories within National Archives holdings and sharing them with our readers. Over the past 49 years, Prologue has evolved, but it has always remained committed to its mission of promoting the resources and programs of the National Archives.

Now we look toward a new setting for the content you’ve come to expect in Prologue. We have begun to explore ways to continue to bring you thoughtful articles and Archives news on a digital platform.  

With the whole of the National Archives as its source material, Prologue has been able to cover a wide swath of American history. In one issue, you might find articles about baseball, Cold War diplomacy, Civil War railroads, and a 19th-century U.S. cavalry soldier. In addition, we’ve brought you news of the National Archives and highlighted major exhibits and activities of the presidential libraries. We’ve also documented our own activities as a federal agency, letting you know what it is we do day to day to serve the American people and how we are making our resources accessible to everyone.

Prologue’s authors have included noted public figures, such as historians James McPherson and Doris Kearns Goodwin, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, and former Nixon aide H. R. Haldeman. Our own staff have contributed many articles, sharing their expertise gained through years of working with the records. And so many researchers have come to Prologue to tell us about the results of their research.

Today’s Prologue doesn’t look the way it did in when the first issue appeared in spring 1969. The small, dense historical journal is now a full-color, heavily illustrated magazine. And now it is time for further change.

Information coming out of a series of focus groups will guide us as we develop new ways to bring you articles and other content about our nation’s history, as well as information about the programs and activities of the National Archives.

As communications technology evolves, we will continue to adapt and find the most efficient way to bring this information to as many people as possible. Instead of reaching just a few thousand readers, we are able to engage a global audience through the Web. And we will also be able to more effectively share the audiovisual holdings of the National Archives, including video footage and sound files, along with photographs.

This is a bittersweet moment in Prologue’s history. As Archivist and a longtime librarian, I have a great fondness for the written word on paper. But we’re increasingly moving toward a digital world, and we’re embracing that change. So, with this final print issue, we do not say “good-bye” but “till we meet again.”

Join the Archivist at his own blog.


Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.