Hoover Takes a Leap Forward in Storage, Preservation, and Retrieval of Archives

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Hoover Institution, Stanford University

“A national and world treasure.” Moving nearly 50 percent of Hoover’s precious documents ultimately to SAL 3.3 secure storage in Livermore will help protect the archives while maintaining scholarly access.

Within a year, the Hoover Institution will achieve a major leap forward in one of its most critical missions. That mission is collecting, storing, and giving access to invaluable documents and artifacts that tell the story of war, peace, and freedom over the last 110 years.

The breadth, depth, and importance of the collections at Hoover are unsurpassed, making them an irreplaceable treasure for the study and preservation of America’s history and ideals.

So as Hoover celebrates the dawn of its second century, nearly 50 percent of our archives will be moved to SAL3.3 (Stanford Auxiliary Storage), a state-of-the-art storage and retrieval facility in Livermore, California, purpose built in partnership with Stanford University Libraries.

“Our contribution to the broader world is as a repository of historical documents, not just as a policy think tank,” says Jeff Jones, assistant director of operations at Hoover. “We possess a national and world treasure. This includes photos and manuscripts of individuals significant to the history of the world. And they must be protected, preserved, and made available for research that affects the future.”

A TREASURE OF HISTORY LIKE NO OTHER

Hoover’s first role, before it was conceived as a policy think tank, was as a library—indeed, its original name was the Hoover War Library. Its added purpose as a policy think tank capitalizes in large part on the contents of the library and archives.

An archival institution—such as the National Archives—is not just a “library” as held in the popular imagination, as a lender of books. It holds many things that aren’t found anywhere else, such as original artifacts, letters, and manuscripts. [DH2] In fact, for over 100 years, the Hoover Institution Library & Archives has collected the world’s most important material on war, revolution, peace, and liberty. Founded by future US president Herbert Hoover in 1919, it is now the preeminent site for research on global social, political, and economic change.

Today, almost 7,000 archival collections fulfill Mr. Hoover’s vision for the institution

to recall the voice of experience against the making of war, and by the study of these records and their publication, to recall man’s endeavors to make and preserve peace, and to sustain for America the safeguards of the American way of life.

To have this collection is vital to Hoover’s role as a custodian of history and a research institution designed to support the ideas defining a free society.

As Jones says, “For historical purposes, you want to have the original, not just a copy. It’s a piece of history. Many of our documents and artifacts are valuable merely that they exist as originals. Many places teach history by engaging original material. When can actually hold a letter or photograph, it changes your perspective about the history you are studying.”

In fact, Hoover is often given material because the donor knows Hoover is the most significant repository for a certain area, such as Russian history.

SAL3.3 WILL HELP PROTECT AND PROVIDE THAT TREASURE

Hoover’s collections are currently spread across three buildings, the most recent of which was constructed 40 years ago.

In the first years of our second century, the Hoover Institution will inaugurate the new George P. Shultz Fellows Building. Concurrently, the archival materials identified for transfer will begin to be moved in two stages, first to interim storage at Iron Mountain and then to the SAL3.3 facility, which includes a sizeable bay exclusively dedicated to the Hoover collections.

Here our collections will be better preserved at precise temperature and humidity points and available for daily delivery to researchers at Hoover. As an added advantage, moving the collections frees up an entire floor in the new Shultz Building for a new state-of-the-art digitization facility that will hasten the online availability of Library & Archives materials to a broad public.

This project allows us to strengthen our support of scholarship that fulfills the purpose of the Hoover Institution as outlined in its mission statement, to “constantly and dynamically point the road to peace, to personal freedom, and to the safeguards of the American system.”

SIMPLY THE BEST

As SAL3.3, the collection will be stored at a constant 55 degrees, with appropriate humidity controls to preserve paper, photos, and other perishable material. The facility is earthquake hardened and protected by sophisticated fire prevention and containment systems.

And it is research friendly. SAL3.3 shelves are designed for maximum efficiency—a visual planogram describes the contents of every box. A computer-controlled lift allows workers to easily access and bring down requested material. Every item is documented and barcoded. For delivery to Hoover researchers, a one-day truck delivery system will be in constant operation.

SAL3.3 is built to the highest modern archival standards, comparable to the National Archives facilities. As Jones states, “This is the best.”

INTO A NEW ERA OF IMPACT

The SAL3.3 project is currently on schedule for completion in June 2020. By this time next year, we expect it to be fully functioning.

Eric Wakin, deputy director and Robert H. Malott Director of the Library & Archives, sums up the significance of this initiative:

Hoover’s archives are unrivaled for use in leveraging the knowledge of the past to understand the effects of social, political, and economic change on the future. The most important archival collection of our time will be preserved in the most advanced facility possible, enabling scholars to have access for the next century.