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Ask An Archivist Day

In support of #AskAnArchivist, we linked up with one of our own, Suzanne Scott, Naval History and Heritage Command Archivist. She took us through NHHC’s stacks and answered our biggest questions along the way. We also got an opportunity to open a few boxes and saw some pretty neat pieces of history!

161005-N-FJ200-001 U.S. Navy photo by PO1 Clifford L. H. Davis/Released

Q: Why does the Navy need an archivist?

The Navy has a rich history, and along with that comes a lot of records and artifacts. At Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), we maintain our Archives so we can preserve that history and provide reference services in support of Navy leadership, Sailors, and the public at large. We often look at our records to assist the Navy with historical studies, new policy initiatives, and war planning.

161005-N-FJ200-002 U.S. Navy photo by PO1 Clifford L. H. Davis/Released

Q: What’s your favorite piece in NHHC’s archives?

We have an awesome collection of WAVES  material. We have a wide variety of documents ranging from official studies to newsletters to cookbooks. The personal collections are so interesting, and really round out the material.

161005-N-FJ200-003 U.S. Navy photo by PO1 Clifford L. H. Davis/Released

Q: What’s a typical day like?

My work deals primarily with the Navy’s Command Operations Reports (CORs). CORs are records every command in the Navy is required to create and send to NHHC annually. Each COR provides a chronology of significant events and analyzes what occurred during a given year. It’s fun because as I look through each, I assess whether they have the necessary information to assist future generations with things like veterans’ awards and medical assistance. NHHC’s archivists have an important role in maintaining the Navy’s historical records.

161005-N-FJ200-004 U.S. Navy photo by PO1 Clifford L. H. Davis/Released

Q: Can former Sailors donate materials? How?

They sure can! Most of our collections are official records, but we have many personal collections. First we assess the donation to make sure fits within our Collection Policy, and then we work to accession the items into our collection. Ideally, we work with the public on how to best send materials, and what materials we’re interested in, before receipt. Veterans and people wanting to donate should reach out to the NHHC Archives Division (archives@navy.mil) for assistance.

Q: How many pieces are in Navy’s collection?

Well, with 241 years of history to maintain, the short answer is A LOT! But we have something like 186 million pages of historical documents, 1 million historic Navy photos, 370,000 manuscripts, 150,000 books, 20,000 pieces of artwork, and hundreds of thousands of Command Operations Reports and ships’ deck logs. The most valuable pieces to me are the oral histories – it’s so neat hearing the personal stories of our veterans and their families. Everyone has a unique story, and I’m happy to help share their history.