An IPad walks into the National Archives and meets wi-fi.

On Monday, November 29, 2010, I set out for the National Archives at College Park (Archives II) armed with my new IPad. This was my first research outing with the IPad. I was at Archives II on a project to identify Civilian Conservation Corps records related to a 1937-1940 lake improvement project in Wisconsin.

National Archives at College Park.

My background work was done on my desktop. My client had provided me with the little information he had about the site and its history and he had sent me a link to download a 1940 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources sketch map and report summarizing the project.

I distilled my client’s information and the DNR map into PDF files. I also distilled into PDF the record group’s page from the Guide to Federal Records on the Web. Since the iBooks app that comes with the IPad has some severe limitations, I purchased the $1.99 app, GoodReader, and installed it. For note taking and bare-bones report writing I also bought Apple’s Pages app for $9.99. My map and notes easily synced from ITunes into the IPad.

The H4H IPad loaded with notes, historical maps, and other PDF files.

Confident that I was fully prepared for Archives II and emboldened by my new gear, I packed the IPad into a small bag and brought a couple of mechanical pencils. I was completely paperless. For reading material during the pull, I had also loaded a few articles in PDF format into GoodReader.

Well before walking out the door I knew that security was going to be an issue. My new IPad case was never going to make it beyond the interior checkpoint and I was going to be going in naked and unprotected. As I drove from Silver Spring to College Park, I was already thinking about clear skin options for NARA research.

Once at Archives II, I made it through the magnetometer and security screening number one. After shedding my coat, bag, and skinning my IPad from its case, I headed up to get an equipment receipt — although it’s not a traditional computer, the IPad is considered electronic equipment — unlike IPods, digital voice records, etc. — that requires an equipment receipt with my name and researcher number on it plus the object’s serial number.

With equipment receipt and IPad in hand, I easily made it through security checkpoint two. As I was walking into the textual materials research room I stopped cold in front of a sign that read: “Wireless is here for researchers.” Dumbstruck and realizing one of my biggest NARA gripes suddenly evaporated, I went back downstairs to get registered for a wi-fi account. All it takes is a reader card and a few minutes.

Sign outside textual research room at Archives II. Android phone photo.

National Archives researcher wi-fi form.

Back upstairs, I headed into the consultation room and pulled the finding aids for the materials I would be using. Using my IPad to take notes and Droid phone to shoot pages from the finding aid and inventories, I completed the service slips and went out into the reading room to wait my nine boxes after the start of the 10:00 o’clock pull.

While waiting, I logged into the new wi-fi network and changed my password. It’s a zippy connection with access to various things firewalled. Things like POP/SMTP mail — in all honesty, I did not read the information sheets I was offered when I changed my password and logged in because I was a bit distracted by personal matters (more on that later).

My boxes arrived on a cart by 10:20 and I began a quick review to determine if the records held the materials my client requested. Records from the area in Wisconsin are present and they fall within the right time period for the lake improvement project. But the more comprehensive review and additional records requests will need to be made during a subsequent trip.

The night before, we had to take our 12-year-old basset hound to the emergency vet hospital. She remained there overnight and was hooked up to an IV and oxygen. As I am working through this small NARA project and IPad experiment, my wife and I will be evaluating all of our veterinarians’ advice and deciding if the time has come to put Hannah down.

Today may be a return trip to College Park or it may only be a return trip to the animal hospital. It’s too early (6:30 AM) to tell. My records are on hold for another two days and my client needs his information so whatever happens, the small project and the IPad experiment will conclude by Thursday.

Read about the second date in Part II.

One thought on “An IPad walks into the National Archives and meets wi-fi.

  1. Never had to use that facility. I generally use LOC. Good to know. Wondering now about LOC wireless too. I generally photo, write and upload files to google docs. Good for viewing photos in large format. I find with a flash drive this can be done without lugging my antiquated slow laptop. I also find that I can e.mail a good amount of stuff to myself from databases. With big fingers I tend to bring a plug in keyboard with the lap top making things much more efficient- so too more to lug around. I generally work at Hopkins. Enough public terminals if one is patient and does not need a comfortable chair. I wish they would find a way for researchers doing serious work to work on databases remotely…..

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