October 29th, 2011

New Veterans Records at National Archives Personnel Records Center

Saturday October 15, 2011 saw the National Archives formally dedicating their new National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Mo. In celebration of that dedication, the Archives have released three new videos that take you behind the scenes of various departments within the Archives that are both interesting and educational. The videos are available at the National Archives YouTube Channel, which also features links to their many valuable online exhibits

In the first video, archive technician and veteran of the United States Air Force Bruce Bronsema demonstrates how to locate and request military records via the Archive’s convenient online application form. The records center receives up to 5,000 requests per day for military records; almost 90% of those requests are met within ten days. Director of the NPRC, Scott Levins, demonstrates the process from beginning to end, providing viewers with an appreciative inside view of how the records are retrieved, copied, and then mailed to those requesting them. It is really an amazing process, especially considering that the center holds over 56 mullion personnel folders.

The second video takes us behind the scenes of the efforts being undertaken by the National Personnel Records Center in reconstructing and preserving documents that were damaged by a fire at the center in 1973. Eighteen million military personnel records were destroyed by the fire and a further six million were badly damaged. At the NPRC’s state of the art preservation lab, the surviving records are thoroughly treated for mold and other damage as they are requested. Watching the preservation specialist carefully handling the burned and damaged fragments of once complete documents is really interesting, and it shows the lengths the center is going through to preserve these important genealogical records. It is incredible to watch how text that was apparently lost to fire damage is restored through some pretty amazing digital technology. Archived microfilm is also treated at the center, and restored film is then transferred to CD for public accessibility while the original is then kept in cold storage. Click Here to view this video on You Tube.

The third video provides a virtual tour of the center’s Research Room which is open to the general public. If you are contemplating any research at the National Archives this is an exceptionally useful and interesting video, as it demonstrates the process of researching military records and the resources available in the Research Room for doing so. It is especially demonstrative of how the staff of the archives is dedicated to helping the general public with their research, and how capable they are of doing so. It truly is a wonderful facility, staffed by helpful and knowledgeable people who truly love what they are doing.