Posted by: Burlington Public Library (WA) | April 5, 2011

Want to go to Washington, D.C.?

If you’ve never been to D.C., you may feel like you’ve missed out on all the amazing, free museums and art galleries and history-laden sights.  Not so!  Thanks to the Internet, tons of that content is (virtually) available to you 24/7.

One great source just got a major upgrade.  Have you heard of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)?  They’re the record-keepers of the country.  If you need to prove that you’re actually a veteran, or you want to see your immigrant ancestor’s records from Ellis Island, you go to NARA.  Also, if you want to see the actual Declaration of Independence, or the cancelled check with which we bought Alaska!

The National Archives building.

  The website explains, “NARA keeps only those Federal records that are judged to have continuing value—about 2 to 5 percent of those generated in any given year. By now, they add up to a formidable number, diverse in form as well as in content. There are approximately 9 billion pages of textual records; 7.2 million maps, charts, and architectural drawings; more than 20 million still photographs; billions of machine-readable data sets; and more than 365,000 reels of film and 110,000 videotapes.”

And I think it’s rough keeping track of our library materials!  

So why am I telling you this now?  Because they’ve just overhauled their search system, which was really bad before.  But now you can go to, or directly to, plug in a search term, and you’re off.   I typed in “Dallas,” just to see what would happen, and ended up reading Lady Bird Johnson’s eyewitness account of JFK’s assassination: the actual typewritten entry!   This is one of those sites in which you can spend hours wandering around, or you can use for a specific topic of research.

Either way, enjoy your history, and your virtual trip to D.C.  Also enjoy the access to information we enjoy, both in civil liberties and in technology!
                    –Mary Beth


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