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Website of the Week — National Archives


Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations.

The National Archives is the U.S. government's record keeper. From census forms to presidential letters and the nation's founding documents, the Archives has amassed an unparalleled collection of American originals.

To help visitors better understand American history and culture through its collection, the Archives has exhibits here in Washington, around the country, and online at archives.gov.

DOZIER: "One that we're very, very proud of that just launched is the Eyewitness exhibit. There's documents, there's some multimedia, there's lots and lots of pictures that you can look at and also print out."

That's Archives web manager Michelle Dozier. The Eyewitness exhibit includes, for example, a letter from an American soldier in World War II describing his first sight of a Nazi concentration camp.

Archives.gov also features a Document of the Day, teacher's guides, an online exhibit on the deadly 1918 flu pandemic, and virtual copies of the founding documents of the American nation —

DOZIER: "…electronic versions of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. And one of the very nice features is, you can go online, under the 'Charters of Freedom,' and you can sign the Declaration of Independence and print out a version of it with your signature on the bottom."

Archives.gov is a nice window into the National Archives, but be forewarned: only a fraction of its holdings is online. Dozier says it's expensive to digitize old records, and she says the Archives has a lot of old records — some 600,000 cubic meters of documents.

DOZIER: "And that's about 4 billion pieces of paper. We also do multimedia collections. We have, for example, about 300,000 reels of motion picture film. We just don't have the resources to make them available online."

But the National Archives is working on having at least descriptions of all its holdings online. You can explore America's past and present through the original sources at archives.gov, or get the link from our site, voanews.com.

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