Archives opens massive new center for government personnel files

Wednesday - 10/19/2011, 10:00am EDT

Bryan McGraw, director of archival programs, NPRC

Download mp3

  • Gallery: (5 images)

By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

The government has opened a new landing pad for government employees' personnel files after they leave federal service.

The brand-new, state-of-the-art building in Saint Louis, known as the National Personnel Records Center, can hold two million cubic feet of records, including more than 100 million military files.

The center is home to the personnel files of Walt Disney, Albert Einstein and, ironically, J. Edgar Hoover.

The National Archives and Records Administration manages the center. Bryan McGraw, the director of archival programs at the new facility, joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris to discuss why the building is so important.

The new center will house those paper records deemed permanently valuable by the National Archives, stretching back to the 1800s and continuing on through the 20th century.

"These are permanent records of the United States, and we have to keep them for as long as possible for historians, family members and genealogists to use," McGraw said.

But just because all the records are there, doesn't necessarily mean they're always available to the public. For example, military records are sequestered for 62 years after a veteran leaves the service, McGraw explained.

There are separate systems and facilities for storing digital records, he added. And while there are certainly benefits to keeping and managing government files in bit and byte form, it turns out there are advantages to paper as well.

"Paper is, largely, a very stable medium," McGraw said. "It is something that will last for hundreds of years if you have them in the right conditions and don't abuse them, so to speak."