March 2009

The National Archives Experience: Digital Vaults

Looking for Alfred Hitchcocks petition for naturalization to become a United States Citizen? How about a letter to President Eisenhower begging him to not make Elvis cut his hair when he joins the army, signed by the Elvis Presley Lovers? Do you need a daguerreotype of a Mexican war officer from 1846? The National Archives has these documents and photos as well as over 1200 more on their website,

This fun, easy-to-use website gives you different options on how to search:

  • You can simply use the search function to get you started.
  • You can collect photos or documents and similar items will coalesce around the document allowing the user to choose from many other photos and documents.
  • Not looking for anything in particular? Then click on "shuffle records" to see hundreds of photos, documents, maps, artwork, video clips and audio files, dating from the 1800s to the present. Items are arranged by theme.
  • Take a “Pathway Challenge” – which is a series of clues that reveals relationships between the documents or photos.

Voted one of the 50 Best Websites of 2008 by Time Magazine, is not only an invaluable resource for document and photo searches, but it is also a fun way to get lost in history for a few hours. I like the thematic layouts of the documents and photos and trying to guess how they complement each other, often in ways I hadnt thought of or expected. So the next time you need a picture of a very young Jackie O with her puppy or a map of the Louisiana Purchase, be sure to check out allergen-free way to explore the National Archives.

Reviewer: Rachel Clarke, FIDM Library Staff Member