The formal dedication of the new National Personnel Records Center took place this last Saturday, October 15, 2011. To celebrate the dedication, the Archives made up three videos that take us behind the scenes. These National Archives’ produced videos are available on the National Archives YouTube Channel, and are copyright free, so we’re posting the descriptions and links to all three videos right here on Enjoy!

Did you know that the archival reconstruction and preservation of records burned in the 1973 Personnel Records Center fire still continues and will for many years to come? Learn more about these efforts in second and third videos below.

Veterans Personnel Records at the National Archives, St. Louis (Runs 3:43)

This video illustrates the primary purpose of NPRC – to preserve the nation’s military personnel files in perpetuity and to make them available to veterans and other interested parties. Air Force veteran and NPRC archives technician Bruce Bronsema – using his own personnel file – demonstrates how veterans can request copies of their records with a simple on-line application (available at NPRC receives 4,000 to 5,000 requests each day for military personnel records and according to NPRC director Scott Levins, responds to 90 percent of those requests within ten days. Levins leads viewers through the process from beginning to end, showing where the records are stored, how they are retrieved and copied and then mailed to requestors. Click on the Illustration to view the video here or click here to view the video at YouTube.

Preservation Lab at the National Archives, St. Louis (Runs 3:18)

Go behind-the-scenes to see NPRC’s new state-of-the-art preservation lab. In 1973 a fire in NPRC’s former building destroyed 18 million military personnel files. Six million more were recovered with varying degrees of fire and water damage. As individual files are requested, preservation technicians painstakingly treat the documents for damage and mold. Preservation officer Marta O’Neill and her staff demonstrate the arduous work required to preserve these permanent records of the United States. The preservation lab also treats archival microfilm, an extensive process shown in the video. In the digital section of the preservation lab, military personnel files of “Persons of Exceptional Prominence” are scanned and the images transferred to CDs. In this manner frequently-requested records are removed from circulation and preserved, even as their contents are made available to the public. And in a startling display of digital technology, viewers see how text seemingly lost to fire damage can be restored to legibility. Click on the Illustration to view the video here or click here to view the video at YouTube.

Public Research Room at the National Archives, St. Louis (Runs 2:49)

The new NPRC building features a research room open to the general public. This video provides a tour of the room and the resources available to genealogists, historians and anyone with an interest in researching archival military personnel records. Among those featured in the video are a couple searching for information on a long-deceased half-brother; a military historian looking at the use of the death penalty during World War II; NPRC’s two archives specialists – Susan Nash and Donna Noelken — who together have more than 60 years experience with the holdings and whose full-time job is to assist the public. As research room manager Whitney Mahar says, “We are the public face of the Archives in St. Louis.” Click on the Illustration to view the video here or click here to view the video at YouTube.