Tracking Arctic Climate Changes

Greenland weather--web

How do we reach back in time to gain a longer perspective of climate variations? It turns out that U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships’ logs since the early 1800s hold hourly recorded data about temperature and weather conditions worldwide. A group of scientists and archivists have teamed up with interested citizens and are working together on the Old Weather project ( in an effort to recover that information, create datasets, and produce computerized “visualizations” of climate variations over the decades. Research Scientist Kevin R. Wood, with the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO), says that the project seeks “to transform old data to big data.”


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Katyn Forest Massacre Documents

Katyn document

 Katyn Forest Massacre Documents Release

The National Declassification Center has declassified and released over 1,000 pages of material related to the Katyn Forest Massacre, making some of them available online. The Center’s latest project originated from the request of Representatives Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, who wrote to the President in August 2011 urging the release of “all U.S. government documents related to the Katyn Atrocities.”

The Center’s guide “The Katyn Forest Massacre” contains background on the spring 1940 massacre, explanation of the archival work involved, and select images of the mass grave area and of documents.

In the period April–May 1940, the Soviet Peoples’ Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), on orders from Joseph Stalin cosigned by each of the members of the Politbureau, executed approximately 4,700 Polish army officers in the Katyn forest, and an additional 18,000 officers and soldiers at various locations throughout the USSR, including Kalinin (Tver), Kharkiv, Kiev, and in Belarusian prisons during the same period. The Soviets did so to eliminate the possibility of organized postwar resistance in Poland. German forces reported the discovery of the mass graves in mid-April 1943 after they recaptured the area. In a remarkable April 1944 document reproduced here, American prisoners of war Lt. Col. John H. Van Vliet, Jr., and Capt. Donald B. Stewart, who had submitted a formal protest in April 1943, prior to being taken to Katyn, responded to a query from the U.S. State Dept. submitted through the Puissance Protectrice, confirming that they were taken to the site by the Germans on May 13, 1943. The U.S. POWs, part of an eight-man POW group, were instructed to select a body for autopsy and encouraged to inspect the site and to ask questions. The Germans photographed and filmed the scene, and gave a selection of photos to the Senior Officer of the group, Lt. Col. Frank P. Stevenson, who distributed them to the U.S. officers as well as the others in the group. In addition, the two sent coded messages to U.S. Army intelligence throughout June–July 1943, reporting on what they  had seen and presenting their conclusion of Soviet guilt, evidence that strongly suggests that President Franklin Roosevelt and the U.S. and British governments knew of the Soviet atrocities by July 1943 but never admitted to it.


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Black Studies Guide to Records

8-Black Studies cover

  Revised Black Studies Microfilm Catalog Now Available

   By Benjamin Guterman

   Originally published in The Federalist newsletter, Summer 2008   (

       It’s been 12 years since the last printing of Black Studies: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications, and this new  and substantially enlarged edition demonstrates the National Archives’ commitment to and success in making records relating to African American history widely available.

      This edition introduces 60 new and previously uncited microfilm publications of materials from nine record groups, with the majority reproducing field office records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865–72, Record Group 105, and compiled military service records of soldiers from the United States Colored Troops (USCT), RG 94.

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Ethically Impossible: STD Research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948


Report on STD Research in Guatemala, 1946-48

This report examines a study funded by the U.S. Public Health Service in Guatemala in 1946–48 on sexually transmitted diseases using experiments that were “clearly unethical.” President Barrack Obama charged the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues in November 2010 to research and report on the Guatemalan experiments after he learned of the experiments that deliberately infected the subjects with syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid. The subjects included soldiers, patients from a state-run psychiatric hospital, and commercial sex workers. Serology experiments, not involving exposure, continued in 1953, even using children.

The President also asked the Commission to review current practices in human subject research to safeguard “the health and well-being of participants in scientific studies supported by the federal government.”

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Manzanar National Historic Site


The management of historic sites often raises questions and opposing views from several constituencies. Ann Hitchcock of the National Park Service provided a striking example in the summer 2007 issue of The Federalist of the essential negotiations—the “Civic Engagement” process—that enabled the preservation of the Manzanar War Relocation Center in Owens Valley, California

She wrote that in 1992 “Congress established Manzanar National Historic Site to provide for the protection and interpretation of resources associated with the Japanese American relocation experience. The legislation also established an Advisory Commission composed of former internees, local residents, representatives of Native American groups, and the general public. Although the mission focused on the relocation camp, the composition of the Advisory Commission would give voice to diverse views.”

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