I was about to write an opening sentence along the lines of “The National Archives are a national treasure.” But then I thought How stupid. Of course it’s a national treasure. Everybody knows that. It’s the kind of statement that’s so painfully apparent it’s not worth putting into print, like announcing that “The universe is vast,” or “Oxygen is vital to human survival,” or “Aaron Goodwin is late sometimes.”
But, well, it really is a big deal. And it’s a big deal to genealogists that it’s been closed for a long time. Distant researchers can typically order copies of select records and microfilms online at the Archives’ eservice page, but for months that page has been headed with this message:
The National Archives and Records Administration has suspended reproduction and digitization services until further notice due to COVID-19. Any orders placed will not be serviced until such time that operations can resume safely; a number of product options have been temporarily disabled. We apologize for any inconvenience. Once operations resume your document reproduction request will be serviced in the order it was received. Customer service representatives are available to answer questions regarding orders currently in our system at email@example.com.
It sounds like we’re entirely out of luck and won’t be able to get anything from the National Archives for the foreseeable future, but that’s not entirely true.
In the spring of 2016, the Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero, announced what was then a pilot project called History Hub, “a platform for researchers to connect with people interested in their topic and people interested in our collections and expertise. It will be a support community for researchers, citizen historians, archival professionals, and open government advocates to provide the answers, interpretations, and perspectives you might need.”
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