Seven Picture Books for Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa—celebrated every year between December 26 and January 1—brings many African-American families together to enjoy the “first fruits of the harvest,” the Swahili phrase from which its name is derived. Its traditions, like lighting the seven candles on the kinara and feasting at a party on the last night of the holiday, center around family and community.

What could be a better way to introduce the principles of Kwanzaa than picture books? Here are a few of our favorites—one for each night of the holiday.


Mark Your Calendars for the January 16, 2018 FOIA Advisory Committee Meeting


Registration is now open for the January 16, 2018 meeting of the FOIA Advisory Committee! The meeting is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the William G. McGowan Theater.

As we have shared with you all before, the FOIA Advisory Committee has been hard at work for more than a year examining some of the major challenges to FOIA and developing recommendations to the Archivist to improve the law’s administration. During the January 16thmeeting, we expect the Committee to further discuss, refine and vote on the draft recommendations developed by its three subcommittees – Proactive Disclosure, Efficiencies and Resources, and Searches.

We hope you will join us in person for the meeting. For those of you who cannot make it to the theater, the meeting will also be live-streamed via the National Archives’ YouTube Channel. You can also follow the FOIA Advisory Committee’s work by visiting this section of our website, and email any feedback you want to share with Committee members by emailing



RG 26: Lighthouses, North Carolina, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Cartographic’s Favorites of 2017

by Brandi Oswald
Co-written with Amy Edwards

The Cartographic Branch holds a wide variety of materials. While working with these documents for reference requests, projects, or research room requests, our staff comes across some very cool and significant documents. Today, we are featuring a few of our favorite records that we’ve come across this year. We hope that you enjoy them as much as we do!

The Cartographic Branch holds a variety of lighthouse drawings. The drawing above shows the First Order Lighthouse for Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  Note that the iconic black and white striping is missing from this illustration, which is dated 1869. Our collection also holds many additional plans and drawings related to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Sketch of Montauk Point Light

RG 26: Lighthouses, New York, Montauk Point Light, “A View of the Light House on Montauk Point.”

Another lighthouse drawing that caught our eye was a hand drawn and handcolored sketch of the Montauk Point Light in New York. The sketch illustrates not only the lighthouse itself, but also shows the light keeper’s house, two detailed boats, and some cows in the foreground. This is only one of countless beautiful sketches and drawings that can be found within our holdings.

Plan for Dry Dock from the Grice Drawings

RG 45: Drawings of Ship Construction and Equipment, “Grice Plans” Drawing 85, Plan for Dry Dock.  

The Cartographic Branch holds many interesting drawings and plans related to ships. This drawing illustrates the plan for a dry dock and is date April 1863.  The ship that is most visible on the left hand side is noted as being the U.S.S. Pennsylvania. This drawing is part of the “Grice Drawings” series of ship plans, which was digitized earlier this year. All of the drawings are available to view and/or download at the following link: Drawings of Ship Construction and Equipment.

Free Trade, Sailor’s Rights Sail

Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment, “Ware Drawings,” Free Trade, Sailor’s Rights Sail.

This drawings features a sail design for a naval vessel. The design was a strong and recurrent theme during the War of 1812.  “Free trade” referred to the protection of American commerce while “Sailors’ Rights” referred to a desire for the end the British impressment of American sailors. Drawings from this series were also digitized this year and are available at the following link: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. Additional information about the Charles Ware Drawings can be found on our previous blog post, “Lynxes and Alligators and Ships, Oh, My! The Ships of the Ware Collection.”

Master Plan Cover for Great Smoky Mountains National Park

RG 79: NPS Master Plans, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 1938.

Another favorite here in the office and on the blog this year were the many unique and ornate National Park Service Master Plan covers that the Cartographic Branch holds within Record Group 79. The 1938 plan for Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of many that is hand colored and quite visually impressive. See our blog post: Planning America’s Best Idea: Master Plans for National Parks for more covers and also the history behind the Master Plans.

Plan for the U.S.S. Constitution

RG 19: Records of the Bureau of Ships,  The U.S.S. Constitution.

Ship plans are some of our most requested items. This drawings is of the U.S.S. Constitution. Originally designed and constructed in 1794, it appears that Charles Ware created an illustration of the vessel sometime later during his tenure at the Boston Navy Yard.  This also appears to be the case for the illustration of the U.S.S. Congress, also designed in 1794 and constructed the following year.  Note that this drawing of the U.S.S. Constitution is located in RG 19: Records of the Bureau of Ships, 1940-1966, rather than RG 45 with the main series of Ware Drawings. Again, additional information about the Charles Ware Drawings can be found on our previous blog post, “Lynxes and Alligators and Ships, Oh, My! The Ships of the Ware Collection.”

Plan for Fort Dupont

RG 77: Fortifications File, Drawer 169, Sheet 91

Fort plans are also quite popular. The Cartographic Branch holds plans for many major and minor fortifications important in our history. This plan is for Fort Dupont, which was constructed by Union forces during the Civil War to help protect Washington, DC against attacks. Along with providing the overall layout of the fort, this drawing includes some cross-sections highlighting gun positions and other elements of the fortification that are better viewed from the side. These help the viewer to better understand this fort and its design.

Drawing of the C.S.S. Nashville

RG 19, Dash Files, 81-12-2G, The C.S.S. Nashville

Cartographic also holds ship plans related to the Civil War. Our holdings include plans for both Union and Confederate vessels. The drawing of the Nashville features a side view of the ironclad naval vessel. In the background, a Union ironclad is visible. Additionally, a mine appears in the water near the Nashville, potentially posing a threat to the vessel.  

Map of Le Bonhomme, France

RG 120, Entry 403, Le Bonhomme, 9/3/1918.

The Cartographic Branch also holds a variety 20th century maps, including many from World War I and World War II. It is difficult to choose a favorite when there are so many. The map of Le Bonhomme in France appears to be pretty average but it is the unique connection to a photograph within the holdings of the Still Pictures Branch which makes this map a favorite of 2017. Staff members discovered photographs showing French cartographers creating a map and were able to match the map in the photographs to the finished map, as the Cartographic Branch holds a printed copy.  For more information on this unique connection and to see the photographs, please see the blog post “Maps of the Great War: Army Cartography in World War I.”

We hope that you have enjoyed a look at some of our favorite items from the holdings of the Cartographic Branch. We invite you to share your own favorites from our holdings in the comments section below, and also invite you to explore our collections to make discoveries of your own! Our catalog is as great place to start!



“Do presidents ever feel bad for having so much stuff at Christmas when some people have nothing?”

Last week, students from a 6th grade Social Studies class in Texas took to Twitter to ask us about Christmas at the White House. The question above merited a longer response than 280 characters, and Corey Carr,  Museum Technician at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, found an example from Christmastime in 1980. Here is his response to the students at Krueger Middle School:

It is easy to imagine that Presidents do feel sorrow for having such abundance when others have so little. Some run for office simply to improve the lives of others. Some Presidents, such as Jimmy Carter, the 39th President, had humble beginnings.  President Carter, like other Presidents, recognized this disparity and used their authority and power to ease the suffering of others. He spoke about his humble beginnings just before lighting the White House Christmas tree in 1980: “My background is as a farmer and farmers have to have a lot of faith in order to keep on every year, planting a crop, not having control over what’s going to happen next.“

During this speech many Americans were being held hostage in Iran and subsequently were separated from their families during the holiday. President Carter recognized the hostages when he asked their families if they wished all the tree lights turned on or just the single Star of Hope on top of the White House tree. The families responded by saying they wanted to wait until all the hostages were home before the main lights of the tree were lit. In the meantime the hostage’s families wished simply for the Star of Hope to burn brightly until their loved ones safe return.

Whether it is securing peace in the Middle East or eradicating disease in Africa, Jimmy Carter is an example of how someone from humble beginnings can better their lives and chose to then use their success in service of others. He understands that the real meaning of Christmas and life itself is not objects but rather people. Helping others, spending time together with loved ones, recalling fond times, and making new memories are what is important. Jimmy Carter epitomized this sentiment once by saying: 

“I have one life and one chance to make it count for something… My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.“ 

This Christmas let us understand that we all have the power to make a positive change, however small, in the lives of others whatever our circumstances. That is the greatest gift we can offer ourselves and the world. What can you do for others?

Image: President Jimmy Carter at the Christmas Pageant of Peace, 12/18/80.



This mini-monkey could fit in a human’s hand: the pygmy marmoset (Callithrix pygmaea) may look like a tiny squirrel as it dashes through the rainforest canopy of South America, but this primate is actually the world’s smallest monkey. Weighing in at 140 g and growing to be 13 cm long, it has a tail that’s longer than its body—and while not prehensile, it helps this monkey balance in the trees.
Photo: Laura Wolf



“This home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright represents the finest of contemporary architecture. Just as the Futuramic Oldsmobile represents the farthest advancement in automotive design.”

The MoMA Library’s current show, Frank Lloyd Wright: Publishing the Self, examines the architect’s career-long engagement with print media. As this example shows, Wright made little distinction between editorial content and advertising.

The show complements the major retrospective exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive. -jt



Louisiana Statehood Day, 4/30/1812

Map of Louisiana, 10/2/1866

File Unit: Louisiana, 1841 – 1941. Series: Special Published Maps of the United States, States, and Territories, 1836 – 1946. Record Group 49: Records of the Bureau of Land Management, 1685 – 2006

Louisiana became the 18th state 205 years ago on April 30, 1812, nine years to the day following the Louisiana Purchase on April 30, 1803.

More maps of Louisiana in the @usnatarchives online catalog.



San Francisco, California. High school boys, on balcony of Japanese American Citizens League at 2031 Bush Street, look down sidewalk where friends boarded evacuation buses. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.” 4/29/1942

Lange, Dorothea, 1895-1965, Photographer. Series: Central Photographic File of the War Relocation Authority, 1942 – 1945. Record Group 210: Records of the War Relocation Authority, 1941 – 1989

Professional photographers such as Dorothea Lange were commissioned by the War Relocation Authority to document the daily life and treatment of Japanese-Americans interned during World War II.  More War Relocation Authority photos by Dorothea Lange.

Explore more resources from @usnatarchives​ on Japanese American Internment and Executive Order 9066: