Tales of the Country

How Tokyo Rose, "Machine Gun" Kelly, and Amelia Earhart are endangered by money-saving moves at the National Archives in San Bruno

"For every 10 records we process there are 10 more waiting and 10 more behind them ...." Nealand is off and running on this dissertation.

"If you're going to provide -- and you're supposed to provide -- information to the public, you have to have a handle on that information you've got," Nealand says, winding up again, and then pausing. "I guess we're the last bastion of idealists."

Among the documents that wait are Army Corp of Engineers' maps and reports on the floods of Northern California history, sitting in a box in San Bruno, virtually unread. Yet every time a major storm hits California, government officials act as if it's never happened before.

There are research files from NASA's Ames and Moffitt laboratories on ceramics and other technology developed for the space program. There are documents that detail how the Department of Agriculture launched the frozen food industry. In fact, it's all but impossible to read anything in the files of the National Archives without learning something.

Perhaps the most important record in the San Bruno facility is one of the agency's own documents. It is titled "The Strategic Plan of the National Archives and Records Administration." Part of it reads this way:

"The National Archives is not a dusty hoard of ancient history. It is a public trust on which our democracy depends. It enables people to inspect for themselves the record of what government has done. It enables officials and agencies to review their actions and helps citizens hold them accountable. It ensures continuing access to essential evidence that documents the rights of American citizens, the actions of Federal officials, and the national experience.

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