The Record - March 1998

At the Presidential Libraries

Timothy Walch, Editor

Doing Research Online at the Jimmy Carter Library

Want to know more about the government's response to the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, or the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island? Perhaps your research interests are U.S. relations with China, the Soviet Union, or Mexico, or the creation of the Department of Energy or the Department of Education, or in the White House's efforts to obtain the necessary votes to pass the Panama Canal Treaty. The documents you want are in the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.

Now, you can search the finding aids of the Jimmy Carter Library to see what is available—the first step to making the archival holdings of this and other Presidential Libraries available online.

Shortly after President Carter left office, archivists from the National Archives began processing his papers, a necessary step before they could be used by researchers. This process involved creating paper finding aids—written documents that listed the file folder titles of each collection, and enabled researchers to make educated guesses about where to find the information they wanted.

This can be a laborious and time consuming task for researchers at the nation's newest presidential libraries. Each successive presidential administration has created an ever- growing mountain of documents, and developing adequate finding aids to guide researchers to the materials they want has become more and more difficult. From slightly more than four million pages for the twelve years of the Franklin Roosevelt administration, the count had risen to over twenty-seven million for the four years Jimmy Carter was in office. The manual finding aids for the Roosevelt collection (typewritten pages in three-ring binders) occupied about two feet of shelf space, but similar finding aids for the Carter papers threatened to occupy more than six times that amount.

Enter the computer! Using a software program called PresNet, the National Archives developed a program that could search the holdings of the Ford and Carter libraries to the file folder level. The power of the computer could be used to reduce the amount of time necessary to search for the relevant files throughout the vast holdings of these two libraries.

For nearly a decade PresNet served researchers and archivists well. But it was not suited to the advances in technology that had occurred since its inception. Thanks to a new program called the National Archives Information Locator (NAIL), researchers around the world now can search the Carter Library's holdings and order materials from their computers.

To search the finding aids of the Jimmy Carter Library, go to the NAIL page on the National Archives web site. Select the option "Search NAIL". A search form will come up which asks you for the terms you wish to search. The more specific you are, the narrower your search will be, and the more focused on your topic the responses will be. In the example we chose, we used "Three", "Mile", and "Island" for our search terms. There is a "Help" button on this screen if you need more assistance.

Leave the "Media" box unchanged, and at the "Description Level" box select "File Unit". This means the results will display all series of records that contain information on your topic, but will also search for individual file folders that may be parts of broader series. In the "NARA Units" box select "Jimmy Carter Library (Atlanta, GA)", and click on "Submit" to retrieve the information about holdings in the Library related to your topic.

Your resulting search will describe file folders in the open collections of the Jimmy Carter Library on a screen titled "NAIL Brief Results". You may if you choose retrieve the "Full Results" as well. The information elements which the Library requires to access the specific file folders are the Collection Title, File Folder Title, and Box Number.

The Library staff will copy the entire contents of file folders for mail-order researchers. Costs are 50 cents per page, with a minimum order of $10.00. Where a file folder has had its contents copied and counted, the full results will indicate the exact page count. Library staff can give estimates for other files. Researchers can contact he Library by mail, telephone (404-331-3942), or e-mail Let us hear from you!

Conference: "FDR, the Vatican, and the Roman Catholic Church" The Roosevelt Library, in conjunction with Marist College and the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, is organizing an international conference on "FDR, the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church in America, 1933-1945." The conference is tentatively set for October 1998, and will be held at the Roosevelt Library and on the campus of Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York. The conference will involve a number of internationally recognized New Deal and Catholic scholars, such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Lawrence Fuchs, Theodore M. Hesburgh, and John T. McGreevy. It will also involve current public policy makers and previous representatives to the Vatican, such as former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Melady, as well as members of the Roosevelt family.

Two Major Exhibits Opening at the Gerald R. Ford Museum Spring, 1998 will bring to Western Michigan a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition featuring the beloved American folk artist Grandma Moses. Grandma Moses: An American Original, on display at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids from April 4 through June 21, will feature over twenty paintings, along with yarn pictures, tiles, and handmade dolls.

In addition to the Grandma Moses exhibit, the Ford Museum is also presenting an exhibition tracing the history of the White House gardens. The President's Garden displays more than 60 historic photographs, paintings, and documents and will focus upon the Rose, East, and Children's Gardens. The exhibit is organized by the White House Historical Association, the White House Curator's Office, and the Superintendent of Grounds for the White House in cooperation with the National Park Service.