Blog 12: USAHEC Archives tour

Yesterday, was given a brief tour of the US Army Heritage and Education Center by a research historian on staff. The center—supported by the 501(c)3 Army Heritage Center Foundation—houses objects, manuscript collections, oral histories, and even veteran’s surveys from as far back as the Spanish-American War. USAHEC, as it currently stands, was finished in 2011. According to the historian I toured with, several additions have been planned which will be constructed as funds are made available. The building has been built with many of these future plans in mind.

What surprised me most about USAHEC is that it has its own conservation facility. The Center also contains a permanent exhibit on the soldiers from the Spanish-American War to present. This exhibit was incredibly interactive. For instance, a visitor could lift up various mounted rifles carried by service members from 1898-present, follow the stories of several soldiers using keycards, and even enter a room that digitally-rendered a Vietnam-era firefight from the vantage point of an American bunker. In addition to this permanent exhibit, several rooms within the center feature rotating exhibits using archival material and objects. The current exhibit relates to the centennial of the US entrance into World War One.

I learned of one particularly interesting problem the archive is currently seeking to remedy: many of the collections need to be “cleared” by double-checking for identifiable information. As a staff member at the archives explained, various collections are being reprocessed in this manner. Anyone looking to have box pulled will need to have the requested box checked against a list of cleared material. Material that has been requested, but not cleared is given priority. Archival staff pull all requested material from one of several archival rooms. I was informed there are several rooms with Individual HVAC systems adjusted to the archival needs of various kinds of items. Unfortunately, I was also informed that part of the archives is dealing with a mold problem that has temporarily affected the accessibility of some materials.

I was deeply impressed by my tour of USAHEC and found kind, courtesy, and knowledgeable staff members at each leg of my journey. I also had the opportunity to be a patron at the archives. I had a box pulled from the collection of a man who had been a soldier during the Philippine Insurrection. I left the archive with a small set of notes and a thorough reference guide on the subject I had expressed interest in to staff members. I look forward to returning to USAHEC again in the future.

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