Archival Intelligence

National archives are the cultural and governmental memory of a nation.  They provide a look into the nation’s pastgood, bad or top secret.  And now with information always at our fingertips, the demand for access to such information has grown at a rapid pace.  

In Latvia, demand comes in the form of a new law which would require the national archives to digitize and publish online the records of the Former KGB.  Over centuries, Latvia has been a Baltic battle ground between invading Germany and Russia. Following World War II, Latvia became a part of the Soviet Union and was under the auspices of the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, better known as the KGB, the Soviet Union domestic security service.  It was not until the late 20th century Latvia finally won its independence.  However, remnants of the old regimes, like the KGB records, still remain.  

While some see this law as promoting governmental transparency and acknowledgement of human rights violations, there are others concerned that people still alive today will be negatively impacted by the release of these documents.  There continues to be a negative stigma for individuals believed to have been willing collaborators with the KGB. The current restrictions for access of information in these records will only apply to individuals identified as victims or third parties.  This leaves a door wide open for personal information regarding anyone else involved with the KGB being made very public.

References

Baltic News Network (May 9, 2019) Latvia to publish additional KGB filing system and other documents.  Retrieved from:https://bnn-news.com/latvia-to-publish-additional-kgb-filing-system-and-other-documents-200447.

Encyclopedia Britannica (May 30, 2019) Latvia history.  Retrieved from: https://www.britannica.com/place/Latvia/History.

Pringle, R. (May 2, 2019) KGB agency, soviet union. Retrieved from: https://www.britannica.com/topic/KGB

Lost and Found

Sometimes, history is not kind to the evidence of its events and people.  Documents are destroyed in fire, books are torn apart by war and photographs end up being shoved in a shoe box at the back of someone’s closet.  History ends up in the most interesting of hidey holes. That is the case for the diary of one such Dutch statesman. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (1547 – 1619) is considered one of the greatest statesmen in Dutch history. He was instrumental in the Netherlands’ emancipation from Spanish rule and was an active participant in the construction of the Dutch government.  However, after a disagreement with the reigning monarch over a military campaign, Johan was executed for treason. During his eight month incarceration, Johan dictated diary entries to a servant. The diary is 40 handwritten pages, which provide insight into Johan’s state of mind and other aspects of the time in history. The original diary had not been documented as seen since 1825.

Lost and Found

Fast forward to 2019, a book seller reached out to the Royal Library at the Haag and the Flehite Museum.  “It seems to have been in a family library which was cleared up last year and the owner recognized it as something interesting and brought it in a big box to the antique-book handler.” (Boffey, 2019)

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Johan’s death, the Flehite Museum has the diary on display, along with other items associated with Johan, his life and his death.

 

Reference

Boffey, Daniel (May 14, 2019) ‘A little miracle’: Dutch statesman’s diary found 200 years after it was lost. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/14/dutch-statesman-johan-van-oldenbarnevelt-diary-discovered-200-years-after-it-was-lost

Preservation in a Time of War

We are still fascinated by the extraordinary stories of courage, cunning and perseverance during World War II. The work of the so called Monuments Men are no exception.  The Monuments Men were created in 1943. The unit was tasked with protecting historical buildings and works of art in the European arena of the war.

Monuments Men

Earlier this year, the post war diaries of one of the Monument Men, S. Lane Faison Jr., was donated to the National Archives and Records Administration of the Unite States.  Faison was a noted art historian. He was responsible for identifying and reporting on the art collections stolen by Adolph Hitler. However, the diaries donated to NARA are from a the time in his life after the war, working on the Munich Central Collecting Point, overseeing the return of stolen art and items of cultural significance to their country of origin.  He also played a part in the Nuremburg trials, investigating Nazi documentation to determine what happened to prominent pieces of art work and interrogating Nazi official to determine the location of the stolen art.

Fiason’s diaries will now be a part of the NARA’s Monuments Men collection, all of the official documents and reports generated by the unit for the United State government, as well as German documentation.  

For more information on Fiason’s diaries, the Monuments Men or the NARA collection please go to:  

https://www.timesofisrael.com/diary-of-wwiis-monuments-man-given-to-national-archives/

https://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/

https://www.archives.gov/press/press-releases/2019/nr19-48


 

Remembering the War to End All Wars

Over the past year, the Nevada State Archives has been celebrating and remembering the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I.  The collection exhibit includes war time pamphlets, political commentary and soldier’s service records.

Gambling with Gifts

In addition to the World War I exhibit, the State Archives has been given gifts presented to the Gaming Control Board, among other agencies, from their international partners.  The Gaming Control Board oversees and regulates gambling in the state of Nevada, but their influence reaches all over the world in the gambling industry. The gifts have come from all over the globe, from beautiful sculptures from China and Malaysia to a commendation from the country of Tonga.  

If you find yourself in the Carson City, Nevada area, please come by and enjoy their exhibits.   

 

The Genealogical Rabbit Hole and IDNA

by Heather Kohles Hahn

Jumping In…

EPSON scanner imageRecently I acquired documents and photographs documenting my family’s history.  Included in the bins and piles was a passport belonging to the person I believe is my great great grandfather, Johann “John” Verhota.  The passport was issued by the Austro-Hungarian Empire circa 1879.  My family always identified as being of German ancestry, sometimes narrowing the scope to Bavarian, but as it turns out, we are of Bohemian ancestry.  Information gleaned from the passport has Johann’s place of origin as Brulic, in the district of Wittengau, which is modern day Třeboň in the Czech Republic

With this new information and using the International Directory of National Archives as a resource, I started down the rabbit hole to uncover more information about Johann.  The directory provided the perfect starting point, the website of the National Archives of the Czech Republic.  From there Google Translate allowed me to navigate as best I could through the website, identifying finding aids, digital repositories and other important information about the Archives.  When I reached a dead end, I went back to the Directory, where I found the email contact for the Archives.  I reached out, asking for any assistance they might be able to give me.

Further I go…

The National Archives was not able to assist me in my search; however they did provide me with the contact information for the Třeboň Regional Archives and that is where I hit what felt like the mother lode.  I received an email back from Markéta Hrdličková, the Head of the Fund and Collections Management Department.  Included in the email was an offer to make a genealogy for me of my family in Bohemia and she also provided me with the correct family name, Vrchota not Verhota.  Perhaps Verhota was one of those Americanized Ellis Island names given or chosen by Johann.  Ms. Hrdličková asked for a copy of the passport to review, which I excitedly provided.

Where She Stops…

This rabbit hole would have been much longer and more circuitous if I had not used the International Directory of National Archives.  The Directory gave me information in a familiar language and direct points of contact to begin my journey.  Hours that would have been spent finding the Archives’ website and trying to decipher its contents and contacts were drastically reduced, making the research process enjoyable and fruitful. As of this writing, I am waiting for a response from Ms. Hrdličková regarding my genealogical inquiry.  I will keep you posted on my progress.