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A Historian Moves to Aberdeen

This blog is getting posted from my new – albeit temporary until the new construction is complete – desk at Aberdeen Proving Ground.  And so were all three blogs from last week.

Thus a second historian has made the move southbound, and now me (Chrissie) and Floyd are down here.  The command historian and the full archive will be in New Jersey at Fort Monmouth for at least six months. 

Some of the blog readers know us personally, some know us professionally, and others we’ve never met.  Here’s some perspective on my own move from New Jersey (where I was born and raised) to Maryland (where my new home is).

The first reason is personal – I got into a PhD program at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and it starts in the Fall.  In order to begin the semester with the rest of my class, I had to move down before the semester actually starts on August 31st.  I’ll be working here full-time, and taking courses part-time at UMBC.  Check the blog in six or so years to read about my dissertation defense.

The Green Room: Painting one of the rooms in my house the day after I moved in. My desk and all my books are now in here.

The second reason to move when I did has to do with the new archival space at Aberdeen Proving Ground.  The CECOM historical office archive in Fort Monmouth is growing – by linear feet of newly donated and accessioned materials, but not by square feet to house all of it.  We’re accepting new materials that are relevant to Fort Monmouth and CECOM history, and will do so in perpetuity.  The new archival space is getting state-of-the-art, space-saving, capacity-increasing rolling shelves.  These will allow us to store more materials in the same square feet by eliminating static aisles between shelves.  Rolling shelves can increase the storage capacity by up to 40 per cent.  Part of what we do down here will be to oversee the installation.   This gives us room to expand without encroaching on others. 

Another reason it’s possible to work in Aberdeen, and away from the archive, has to do with technology: we scan documents to PDF and photos to JPEG/TIF.  As we accession new materials into the archive, we digitize them.  We also digitize as much as we can that is already in the archive.  While I may be physically separated from the archival holdings, I’ve still got access to a lot of archive digitally.  And unlike the paper copies, the scanned versions are keyword searchable, have meta-tags, and keep the originals safe in their boxes.  In a few more days, I’ll even have access to our entire historic newspaper collection!

It’s never good to have a backlog of work, but the fact that the office has one is another case for moving down in advance of the archive.  For many decades, the historical office was woefully understaffed.  A historical office with only 1 lone historian was responsible for all research requests, writing assignments, memorialization efforts, and preservation.  And like all of us deal with daily, work needs to be prioritized.  Events for visiting dignitaries or requests for historical speeches from the Commanding General take precedent over less pressing matters.  One of these matters that is extremely important, but also time-consuming and difficult, is writing the Annual Command History.  It requires compiling over 1,500 pages of raw materials into one cohesive monograph documenting all activities of the command over the past fiscal year and takes a few months to write.  They’re a valuable asset, and required by Army regulations.  But there’s a few left from the 1990’s that we’re trying to finish up.  I’ve got FY 2000 to keep me busy and engaged until the archive arrives.

All the primary sources I need to write the FY2000 Annual Command History.

 I’m totally unpacked at my new house, and very happy to be down here.

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