American Experience

Giving Tuesday

The holiday season is in full swing! Last weekend, I saw trees of all shapes and sizes passing me on car rooftops. Holiday wreaths are appearing on doors, and the yard lights have returned in my neighborhood. I hope you are finding ways to capture the holiday spirit as well.

Today is Giving Tuesday. This year, we are asking for your support with a twist. As you know, the Foundation operates the National Archives Store on behalf of the Archives. When you visit our store, you quickly notice that every product has a backstory linked to records in the Archives or themes from our nation’s history. Our Store is more than just a nice place to find a gift to take home with you at the end of your visit. The revenue it generates is a major source of the funding that supports the Foundation’s operations and  the grants we give to the Archives for programs, civic education outreach, and exhibitions.

As they have been for many small businesses and nonprofits, the last twenty months have been difficult for the Archives museum, which has been mostly shuttered or operating at limited capacity. For this reason, our online store has become a lifeline.

For Giving Tuesday this year, we are asking you to treat yourself (or a loved one) to a gift from the National Archives Store online. As a reader of the American Experience newsletter, you can redeem the code AMERICANEXPERIENCE20 for 20% off any regular-priced item through Friday at 11:59PM ET. 

Today’s newsletter edition reveals a few examples of the stories and Archives holdings that have inspired products in the Store. Enjoy reading, shopping and saving! 

Patrick Madden
Executive Director
National Archives Foundation

P.S. Our virtual programs are back! Join us next Monday at 5:00 p.m. for our annual holiday trivia night with District Trivia. There will be some store giveaways, and it’s really the best way to brush up on your U.S. history and have some laughs. Register here!


If you want to join our weekly American Experience newsletter, and receive updates from the National Archives Foundation, subscribe here!


Obama’s Oval Office Apple Bowl

During his administration, President Barack Obama kept a wooden bowl filled with apples on his desk. The maple bowl was a gift from one of his staff members and was handmade by George Peterson, the owner of Circle Factory, his studio in Brevard, North Carolina.

The President’s wooden apple bowl was a staple of his Oval Office decor throughout his tenure. You can see it here, as Obama calls to congratulate Creigh Deeds for winning the Virginia gubernatorial Democratic primary on June 10, 2009. Here’s another shot of the bowl, as Obama grabs a quick snack before a meeting with Senators Dick Durbin, Patty Murray, Harry Reid, and Chuck Schumer.

If you want to give your kitchen some Oval Office vibes, you can purchase the bowl here (apples not included, sorry).


Kamala Harris’ Pearl Necklace

The National Archives Store is offering an exclusive Swarovski glass pearl necklace inspired by the one worn by Vice President Kamala Harris in her official Vice Presidential portrait. (Fun fact: the first President to have his official portrait taken digitally? Barack Obama).

Some of our items reflect history, while others are a part of it. This necklace commemorates Harris’ historic Vice Presidency as the first woman, the first Black woman, and the first South Asian American to hold the office. Created by KJK Jewelry in New York City, the 34-inch necklace consists of a gold-plated chain and lustrous pearls. The necklace can be worn as a double or a single strand. The store also offers an 18-inch version of the necklace and a set of both necklaces.


Authentic Red Tape

As an agency, the National Archives preserves more than 15 billion paper records, and preservation techniques have changed over time. At one point, paper records were laminated because it was a best practice by conservators. Undoing lamination takes a lot of time and manpower – lesson learned!

One old storage technique has resulted in this featured collection of “Authentic Red Tape.” Records were folded, bundled, and rolled and then bound by a narrow red ribbon made of cotton or linen. The most common use of red tape was by the War Department in the mid- to late 1800s. The red tape used in one War Department expense report submitted in 1865 was 154 miles long – enough to stretch from the War Department Building in Union-controlled D.C. to Confederate fortifications in Petersburg, Virginia, one historian joked.

When records were examined years later, particularly when Civil War veterans or relatives requested pension compensation, they had to journey to D.C. to get them. Officials then had to cut the tape securing the folded records – and this is where the phrase “cut through the red tape” comes from.

All the items in this collection are made with actual red tape that was used to secure past records. When you purchase items from this collection, you are truly buying a piece of history!


History Snacks

Constitution Quest Board Game

How well do you think you know the U.S. Constitution? The Constitution Quest board game covers all articles and amendments to the Constitution, plus dates and key facts. It can be played by as few as two players, but it’s also a great team game. Cognitive Square, Inc., a small business from Temecula, California, manufactures the game. They made the game “in our quest to promote and empower literate, informed, and actively engaged citizens,” much like the Archives Foundation!


National Treasure Mug

How could we leave some classic National Treasure merch out? In a tip of the hat to Nicolas Cage’s movie, this mug looks quite ordinary until it is filled with hot liquid. Then the image on the mug changes to the symbols, revealed code, and fire that closely resemble those elements in the movie. The mug is manufactured overseas and decorated in the United States. Decode your own symbols here.


Last Week and More

We want to bring the Archives to you. If you missed last week or our content in the past, have no fear! We’ve collected everything we’ve dug up from holdings. Click on an icon below to learn more!

  • We the People
  • History Pix
  • Archives Encore
  • History Quirks
  • Patent Pending
  • Cooking Club

Live Interactive Programming

While the National Archives has remained closed, the National Archives Foundation has begun hosting a variety of live programming including interviews with historians and authors as well as a celebration of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. Check out our past programs below and stay tuned for upcoming adventures in history!


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And if you have a favorite fun memory of the National Archives, or love history and just want to share, post on social media using #ArchivesAtHome and we’ll give you a shout-out!

The National Archives Foundation strives to inspire citizens to explore the past and cultivate a deeper understanding of their civic history and civic responsibility. Join the Foundation today and learn how you can help support our mission!