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Celebrate National Archives Month with the CECOM Historians!

October is National Archives Month, and to celebrate, the CECOM historical office is presenting a blog per day about all the wonderful materials in the archive. Some of the things you’ll see over the next month include:

  • Highlights and one-of-a-kind materials in the collection, like the newspapers and the property books
  • The types of non-paper media we have
  • Archival maintenance and how we take care of everything
  • Interesting stories straight from archival sources
  • Events that the historical office participates in

Introduction to the archive

The archive itself is currently housed in the CECOM historical office in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. We have a main archive that contains mostly paper, a few shelves of books, and the newspaper collection. We have a small annex that holds technical manuals. And we have another area for more technical manuals, technical reports, 16mm films, a card catalog, and a to-be-assessed donation of Cold War era materials.

Why keep an archive at all? Isn’t everything available online?

The documents in the archive tell the stories of both the Communications and Electronics Command, and the stories of where CECOM (and its predecessor organizations) has been headquartered and stationed over the years. For example, CECOM has employees at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey; Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Fort Hood, Texas; Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; and Fort Huachuca, Arizona. This does not even include Soldiers and Logistics Assistance Representatives that are all over the world!

While many materials are digitized, most of them – if they were authored before 1998, anyway – started out on paper. The historians love neatly scanned and searchable files as much as anyone, but keeping the originals is critical.

  • What if there’s damage to a data storage center in a storm? If the originals are still around, you can keep working!
  • What if some pages were missed in the scanning process? Since you still have the original, you can re-scan those missing pages.
  • What if a document is too delicate to scan? Some older or poorly preserved materials can’t handle the rigor of scanning.
  • What happens when future media storage methods no longer match up with how we’re storing them today? One word: microfilm.

Scanned and keyword searchable files might make history more accessible, but they are not a replacement for the originals. And there’s only so many pages you can scan in a day.

What does the archive contain?

There are newspapers from Fort Monmouth first opened in 1917, thousands of technical manuals dating back to the 1930s, boxes on the birth of radar, and so much more. Stay tuned, put us on your RSS feed, and check back for great stories from the archive!

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