Key NASA History Web Sites
Interdependence of Archivists, Records
Managers, and Historians
A Select Sampling of Model NASA History
Tips on Writing an Unsolicited Proposal
How a Manuscript Becomes a NASA History
Interdependence of Archivists, Records Managers, and Historians
The NASA History Office maintains over 2,000 cubic feet of historical
documents. A civil servant and two contract archivists oversee this
material, referred to as the NASA Historical Reference Collection.
In general, this collection includes photocopies of “official
records,” but not the original documents.
Permanent official records of the Agency are required by law to
be transferred to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
(NARA). Records schedules, agreed upon by NARA and NASA, are specifically
written for NASA records. NASA records managers at Headquarters
and the Field Centers work with staff in all NASA offices to preserve
official records. In accordance with instructions in the schedules,
permanent records are transferred to NARA when they reach a certain
age, depending upon the nature of the specific records.
In the interim, records may be stored at a regional Federal Records
Center (FRC), part of the NARA system. NASA retains custody of the
records while they are stored at the FRC and must give permission
to anyone outside of NASA who wants to use the records. When materials
are finally transferred to the National Archives, legal title passes
to NARA, and researchers must contact appropriate NARA personnel
to access the materials.
The NASA History Office maintains copies of key correspondence,
memoranda, press releases, reports, and other documents from the
official Agency files in our Historical Reference Collection. History
Office staff also comb through newspapers and magazines to augment
our holdings. Donations of documents also come from individuals
at NASA Headquarters and the Field Centers, retirees, and outside
The Historical Reference Collection is primarily arranged by subject
and includes biographical files on astronauts, NASA officials, presidents,
legislators, and aviation and aerospace pioneers. A small portion
of our holdings consists of audiovisual materials such as oral-history
interviews and conference proceedings. Our files date from the early
1900s to the present and are searchable in an online database accessed
from our office. We have a large collection of materials documenting
the work of NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee
for Aeronautics. History Office staff have scanned and placed in
our database hundreds of documents for research use, making our
database part finding aid and part electronic document repository.
Historians visit the NASA History Office, Center history offices,
FRCs, and NARA to conduct research for their books. In doing so,
they analyze the primary and secondary sources preserved in NASA
and NARA repositories, provide interpretation, and produce written
works for peer and editorial review and for eventual publication.
Typically, they conduct oral-history interviews with key individuals
to supplement the written record available to them.
The research process goes full circle: Historians who are under
contract to NASA donate research materials to the NASA History Office
after the completion of their manuscripts. And the archivists’
work begins again—appraising, organizing, indexing, and providing
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