Sara Clark Collection closed

Artie Bob

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5 January 2008
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I tried to access the Sara Clark collection at the US National Archives II and was informed they are closed, probably at least until June of 2009. Just a caution in case anyone was thinking of doing any research in that resource. Best action is probably to call or E-mail way ahead if you are going to College Park. BTW, I haven't been there for a couple years. They now have archivists on duty adjacent to the document reading room making them a lot easier to get to than before (call ahead, make an appointment, wait, go past the guard, etc. It still is a lot more fun to do research at Garber, the archivists there generally know more about aircraft and their collections, plus they are a lot nicer to deal with.

Best regards,

Artie Bob
Hi Artie Bob!

Open whether the archive Sarah Clark Collection (RG 342)?
If you see, there are very interesting proposals:

1) Boeing Model 225
2) Bell Design 89
Design 90
3) Consolidated Model 107
4) Curtiss P-269
Curtiss-Wright P-222
5) Douglas Model 416
Model 538
6) Lockheed L-152
7) Martin Model 195
Model 274
8) Republic Model AP-21
9) Seversky Model AP-5(,6A)
10) Vought-Sikorsky VS-303
Vought V-141
Anyone on this forum that could volunteer to explore the Sarah Clark collection? Plenty of other fantastic stuff there anyway!
I think has already been done by a robust commando of researchers... you'll see results in a while.
The Aviation Engine Historical Society mounted a major effort to create a data base for the Sara Clark Coll'n, but I don't know how accessible that might be yet -- that, and of course it was looking for engine material in particular. Researchers should know that the collection runs from 1917 to ROUGHLY 1948, and that there is another 7,000 feet of USAF R&D correspondence at the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis. It starts where Clark leaves off, more or less, but w/expections on both sides of the boundary.

The second thing to keep in mind is that the Sara Clark colln consists of correspondence, and the general practice was to remove attached photographs and drawings not the same size as the paper. There are exceptions, of course, but that was often the practice.

The third thing to keep in mind is that there are two other major bodies that run in parallel to Sara Clark, and those are the engineering notebook collections and the engineering reports collections. The AEHS guys found them on microfilm while mining the Sara Clark stuff...

The material at St. Louis is not inaccessible, but it's no better arranged than Sara Clark -- basically the boxes were numbered as they came off the truck, so it's as if everything was poured into a giant blender, and then put back on the shelf. St. Louis does have some incredible stuff, guess is that there are several hundred boxes there on Dynasoar, and likewise on the B-52 program. The trick to Sara Clark was that each active program was carried forward into the next fiscal year for as long as it remained active...hence, the B-29 material that no body can find in Sara Clark is at St. Louis. I turned Ken Werrell onto it for his B-29 book in the 90s, and he went through 4-5 boxes there. Last time I was there, I looked at ZELMAL, helicopter towing experiments, and some other stuff. As Eddie Haskell would say, neato-keeno.
Boxes of unsorted material!? A dream for sure! I could spend a week searching relentlessly through such a treasure if I had a chance! Whoever gets around to doing it is one lucky man...
Well, it's not quite that random. More like veins of follow one until it stops, knowing that it may pick up somewhere else just a few feet away.

One tool that helps is a copy of the War Dept decimal guide -- it's a directory that assigned a number (and sub-numbers, sub-sub-numbers, etc.) to every conceiveable topic that might be a subject of interest to the Army, e.g., 'airplanes, general.' was 452.1. Each office filed its correspondence according to that scheme.

Here's what makes Sara Clark like mining for gold. What we call Sara Clark was created when Wright Field and its laboratories (there were about 12 during WWII) were told to 'clean out your files' after WWII. Sara's central files were boxed up, along with lab correspondence (which may be duplicated in multiple labs' files, but each w/different marginalia, maybe the photos, maybe not, etc.). This means that box x through box 34x might contain the files of the Propellor Lab, and box 35x through 42x might contain the files of the Instrument Lab, and so forth. But all of that went onto the same truck(s), and NARA numbered the boxes as they were taken off the truck(s)...and thus no longer in order, other than the files in each box being more or less as they had been in somebody's file drawer. Now, the only 'map' is the shipping documents that came with the boxes...they describe the contents, sometimes in exacting, folder-by-folder detail, sometimes just "papers." The shipping documents take up 105 sheets of microfiche. (By comparison, there are 250 boxes of shipping documents at St. Louis, but there was a sampling effort done in the late 90s).

So, what's needed is for someone to do a virtual reassembly of the filing cabinets at Wright Field...that's what the AEHS is attempting to do.
Well, as a old archive rat I can testify that things are all the world the same (unsorted things, boxes with no names, uninteristing file mixed with gems, trasmission letters without the payload, grrrrr, but as usual in America everything is GIGANTIC... ;D
If anybody is interested in finding out about Sarah Clark, she was a file clerk at Wright Field until 1956. Miss Clark was also a person of extraordinary dedication and vision. She realized the historical importance of the R&D documents she handled on a daily basis during these critical years of aviation development, and her priceless legacy now occupies more than a mile of shelf space at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

For more info on Sarah Clark, check out her AAHS bio at:
Thank you so much! This makes for very interesting reading on a most valuable and key person in US aviation history. Hope the result of her long years of meticulous work eventually gets the attention it deserves. Hope the files get sorted out in the way she meant it and that this will bring to light many so far obscure data on US aviation history...
Any news from all the digging that's supposed to have taken place in the Sara Clark collection?

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