An update on the Pearl Harbor library situation

Written by Burl on July 24th, 2012

I talked to NPS superintendent Paul DePrey today, and he was more encouraging about the Arizona Memorial/Pacific Historic Parks library situation. He was careful to point out that there is a difference between what they call the “library” and what they house in their “collection,” which are the artifacts, documents and other ephemera being preserved by park curators and historians.
According to DePrey, the library was simply some reference books they kept on hand for the in-house use of the staff. Although this is largely gone, they do still have some volumes, but DePrey says they’re nothing special, just generic Pearl Harbor books.
The collection, on the other hand, is boxed up and placed into deep storage at the Pacific Historic Parks warehouse. There is a plan afoot to house these items eventually in the new NOAA structure being constructed on Ford Island, along with NOAA’s own library. This is at least a couple of years off. So if you need to do research, hold your horses, and get a day pass to Ford Island, which isn’t easy for civilians. But there’s a plan in place, they say, never fear.
As for the library shelving and such, DePrey said that what was tossed wasn’t worth keeping, and the good stuff found homes elsewhere in the park. I’m hearing, though, that other office materials were canned. Government regs require an inventory and estimated value of disposed items, and it might be interesting to see what was dumpstered.


4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Damon says:

    I would love to share pictures of what has been found every now and then if allowed!

    Sounds like you stumbled on a great bit of history!

  2. Burl says:

    Here’s the response that DePrey is sending to concerned citizens. Once you decipher the NPS-speak, the situation remains the same:


    Thank you for forwarding this concern with me. I would like to share my
    response with you and ask that you consider forwarding this message on to

    First, let me clarify the distinct difference between library materials and
    archives. Library materials consist of accessible publications and library
    materials are, typically, easily replaceable. Archival materials and
    collections such as artifacts, photographs and documents of an historic
    nature are considered items with a unique relationship to history.
    Archival materials are irreplaceable. The National Park Service in Pearl
    Harbor manages these two types of materials very differently–with the
    higher standards applying to archival materials, artifacts, historic
    photographs and documents in our collection. You may be familiar with
    libraries that have special collections or rare documents or books. We
    place those materials into our archives and collections, not in our
    employee library.

    Please be assured that the priceless archival materials and artifacts
    managed by the National Park Service remain in a secure facility and
    continue to be available for research purposes. I am gravely concerned
    that some with an interest in donating archival materials or artifacts may
    erroneously conflate the temporary storage of our employee library with the
    more stringent management of our park collections. It would be a great
    disservice to future generations should potential donors be dissuaded from
    doing so as a result of this misperception.

    It appears that there has been some confusion over the manner in which the
    employee library materials at this site are being managed. The office in
    which we work has a severe space issue and a plan is underway to move some
    of our operations into another facility in the next year or so. In the
    preparation for this move, and in an effort to more efficiently use the
    space at hand, the employee library materials most commonly used by my
    ranger staff have been relocated to the visitor center for their use. The
    remaining employee library materials have been packed and boxed and are now
    placed in storage. Please understand that these library materials, while
    important, are not unique publications only available through our
    repository. Indeed, most if not all of these volumes are accessible
    through public and university libraries. I say this not to diminish the
    value of the library materials, only to draw a distinction between the
    paperback novel series or TimeLife reference collection found in our
    employee library materials and the historic personal journal of a Pacific
    War veteran that is curated and carefully maintained in our collection

    Researchers with in an interest in accessing primary source materials such
    as oral history transcriptions or images from the 14th Naval District
    historic photograph collection may still do so–these items are managed
    within the park archives which are a part of the museum collection. We
    have not yet begun the process of preparing these collections for the move
    into a new collection facility.

    The purpose of the employee library is to assist park staff in developing
    contextual understanding of the historic events associated with the Pacific
    War. The library materials are not circulated outside of the National Park
    Service and had great use for staff during the development of the
    interpretive exhibits in the new visitor center. I look forward to the day
    when these books sit on shelves in a safe and well managed space and are
    accessible by my staff.

    Please rest assured that in no way has the special trust and stewardship
    responsibility conferred upon the National Park Service by our many
    supporters and donors of archival materials been violated. The exercise of
    reviewing our employee library materials for packing has improved our
    awareness of how we can better manage these and other materials. I ask
    that any concerned with these issues please contact me directly to better
    learn about the circumstances associated with this action.


    Paul DePrey
    World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
    Pearl Harbor
    1 Arizona Memorial Place
    Honolulu, Hawai’i 96818
    808-483-8608 (fax)

  3. Burl says:

    What I’m wondering about now, of course, is why archival and collection space wasn’t designed into the new visitor center in the first place? (The design predates DePrey’s tenure, so don’t blame him for it! This is an ongoing asset-management problem that comes from Washington. There aren’t even enough NPS employees at the Pearl Harbor visitor center to keep the place clean.)
    The curatorial spaces for the National Park Service Pearl Harbor archives have been sequestered in Building 416, an old Navy warehouse, deep in the secure area of Pearl Harbor for some years now. It doesn’t even have fire-suppression fixtures, and large collections, like the Tai Sing Loo photographic archive, are farmed out to a number of sites. Because of understandable Navy security concerns, it is almost impossible for scholars to visit the #416 archives, and this is the area that is being stripped and packed away — so scholarship is going from almost-impossible to impossible. At least for the time being.

  4. vonmerpf says:

    Well, I’m glad that the materials weren’t just tossed in the trash, but it is a bummer that they are becoming even less accessible. When you talk about secure warehouses, I can’t help but picture the last scene from Raiders Of The Lost Ark with the Ark being boxed up and moved to a far corner of a warehouse filled with thousands of other mystery boxes.

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