October 20, 2021

Behind the Bank Vault Door is Archives!

Most photos of Gen. George C. Marshall show him rather serious, like this:

Gen. George C. Marshall as Army Chief of Staff


Even as a boy, his photos were unsmiling.

Marshall as a high-school student in Uniontown, PA.


So to find a photo where Marshall is hamming it up for the camera is rather unusual.

Lt. Bruce Palmer and Lt. George Marshall during a bridge-building exercise at Merritt Lake on Fort Leavenworth, KS, in 1907 while students at the School of the Line.


These photos are from the George C. Marshall Foundation library archives, and as part of American Archives Month, I welcome you to the archives!

The archives at the Foundation are kept behind a bank vault door.


The vault door and gate were necessary when the Foundation building was constructed, as some of the papers were still classified in 1964. None of them are now, but the vault door still protects the archives.

Vault door and gate


The archives is three stories, containing nearly 400 collections, the largest of which is the George C. Marshall papers, of course.

A section of the Marshall papers.


Other collections include papers from notable people such as Gen. James Van Fleet, commander of Eighth Army in Korea; Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander and Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy; Gen. Lucian Truscott, who commanded a division, corps, and field army in World War II; and William and Elizebeth Smith Friedman, codebreakers who helped win wars and catch criminals. Many collections are from ordinary people with extraordinary stories, such as Capt. Rebecca Brockenbrough, of Richmond, VA, a member of the first Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps class in 1942; and Homer Simpson, a teenager from Bath County, VA, who kept a diary during his time in the trenches in World War I (transcript of his diary).

Pvt. Homer Simpson


There is more than personal and professional papers in the archives – there are maps and posters from both world wars, oral history interviews, scrapbooks, videos, and thousands of photos.

The archives is lucky to have graduate school intern Eryn here part time, working on new collections. It’s nice to have help, at least temporarily.

The archives is available to researchers who find the collections valuable as they write papers, articles, and books, and also create podcasts and television shows.


Filming for a Japanese public television show.


Research access to the Foundation library and archives is by appointment; contact information is available on the Foundation’s Website.

Melissa has been at GCMF since fall 2019, and previously was an academic librarian specializing in history. She and her husband, John, have three grown children, and live in Rockbridge County with three large rescue dogs. Keep up with her @MelissasLibrary.