Indiana Fed Docs

October 2009

10.07.09     10.14.09     10.28.09

10.28.09 Agency Profile: the US Mint

Last week I was at the FDLP conference in Washington, DC.  After spending some time being surrounded by monuments and statues of great American leaders, I thought it would be fun to look at memorials on a smaller scale – coins of the United States.  Plus, who doesn’t like numismatics?  Thus, this week’s Agency Profile is focusing on the US Mint. 

The Mint is a part of the Treasury Department and has been around since 1792.  It is responsible for producing the coinage for the USA and does so at six facilities around the country: Washington DC, West Point NY, Philadelphia PA, Fort Knox KY, Denver CO and San FranciscoCA.  This is not to be confused with paper currency production.  That is the responsibility of the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing 

The Mint website lists its primary functions as the following:

  • Distributing U.S. coins to the Federal Reserve banks and branches.
  • Maintaining physical custody and protection of the Nation's $100 billion of U.S. gold and silver assets.
  • Producing proof, uncirculated, and commemorative coins, and medals for sale to the general public.
  • Manufacturing and selling platinum, gold, and silver bullion coins.
  • Overseeing of production facilities in Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco and West Point, as well as the U.S. Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

As I’m sure you can imagine, the Mint has produced a lot of coins over the years – some of these have since been “retired,” and new ones are being released on a fairly regular basis.  The Historical Image Library on the Mint website is a cool place to go to see coins – both circulating and non-circulating – from the past century.  You can also search the Archives for more images of coins.  Additionally, the website has an interesting timeline that tells the story of the Mint since its first inception.

While the US Mint isn’t responsible for nearly as many publications as other agencies and bureaus are, they have published a few through GPO.  Here’s a small sampling:

  • Annual report of the Director of the Mint (annual). Available at: T 28.1:
  • Catalogue of official coins and medals (1985). Available at: T 28.2:C 66/11
  • Medals of the United States Mint (1977). Available at: T 28.2:M 46/2/977
  • The old mint of San Franciso: a national historic landmark, 1874 (1978). Available at: T 28.2:M 66/4
  • Touring the US Mint at Philadelphia: its history and coinage (1987). Available at: T 28.2: T 64
  • World coinage report, 1980-1984 (1986). Available at: T 28.2:C 66/12/980-84

Finally, as a fun feature, the Mint highlights one coin each month.  October 2009 is celebrating the 2009 James K Polk Presidential $1 coin.  For images and a brief history of Polk, see the Mint's Kid's Page on the topic.

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10.14.09 Using fed docs for scientific research

So far, we’ve been focusing a lot on historical uses for government documents.  However, there are many more uses for federal information!  One such use is for scientific information.  The United States government sponsors and supports a huge amount of scientific research.  There are agencies within the government that focus on a wide variety of scientific enterprises: biotechnology, astronomy, energy use, health and more.  If you’re just looking for general science information – let’s say you have a school project and you don’t know what its focus should be – a good place to start is Science.gov.  This is basically the federal government’s clearing house for agencies that revolve around some type of science.

One example of a site that can be found here (I got it under Applied Sciences, but I’m sure you can find it in other categories as well) is the Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center .  This is produced by the Department of Energy and contains data and information related to alternative fuels and ways that we can reduce the amount and types of fuels that we currently use.  It allows you to search for vehicles and access data on emissions and fuel economy.  Even if you do know what it is you’re looking for, Science.gov is a good place to go.  They provide access to this and a variety of other databases that you might not find in a general Google search.

You can also get to medical information from the federal government.  While there are a lot of commercial websites dedicated to health and well-being, it can be difficult to determine their reliability.  Medline Plus is a great place to start.  It’s run in by the US National Library of Medicine in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health.  Other agencies that provide medical information are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food & Drug Administration and the Administration on Aging, to name a few.

 The federal government has some extremely helpful databases that are open to paid subscribers.  However, depository libraries have access to these databases as well.  Anyone who wants to use one can come to a library and do so.  You can’t get to them from your home computer, but stop on by the State Library and we’ll get you signed on!  Here are the two that would be of highest interest to someone with a science bent.  The first is the NOAA Climatic Data Center.  Now, there are a lot of statistics other forms of information from NOAA available online.  However, the Climatic Data Center goes further in depth.  You can access local hourly climatological data, precipitation data and even monthly climate data for the world.

Another helpful database is DARTS: Depository Access to Reports, Technical & Scientific (NTIS).  As the name implies, DARTS is free to depository libraries and allows users to gain access to scientific and technical reports.  Here’s where you can find a lot of in-depth research.

Not everything is available online.  The government was publishing for 200 years before the internet came along and there is a lot of work to be done before everything can be digitized.  Luckily, the State Library has a huge collection of works in print.  Through our online catalog, you can access publications from NASA, the Department of Energy, the USDA, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Health and Human Services and more.  They publish reports, scholarly journals, overviews and even illustrated textbooks.  Stop on by and see what kind of information we have!

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10.07.09 Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day

Monday, 12 October is Columbus Day.  In honor of that, we’ll be demonstrating more ways to use federal documents to research a historical figure; this time, it’s Christopher Columbus.  We’ll also show you items that you can use to research topics relating to Columbus, such as Columbus Day or other explorers.

Columbus Day was established in 1937 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  It was originally set on 12 October, as that was the day that a sailor on the Pinta first spotted land.  In 1971, it was changed to the second Monday in October.  This year, of course, it falls on both.  Many people are quick to point out that Columbus was not the first to discover land in the Western Hemisphere – not only were there already indigenous people here, but there is evidence that Vikings landed in the north far before Columbus got here.  For that reason, some states have different names for the day.  In Hawaii they call it Discovery Day, and South Dakotans celebrate Native American Day.  However, the day was originally established as Columbus Day because Columbus was the first to establish a lasting connection between the Western Hemisphere and Europe.  For more information on Columbus Day, check out this site from America.gov. 

As usual, the Library of Congress is a great place to start if you want information on Columbus.  If you run a simple search on their online catalog, you’ll get over 3000 hits!  Setting the search limits to the English languages reduces the number to about 1400.  Depending on what aspect of Columbus you are interested in, you can change your search parameters.  You can also get a really good brief outline on the man from the LOC Today in History feature.

The National Archives is also worth checking out.  Now they mostly deal with records of government agencies.  Clearly, Columbus was a little before their time.  However, in 1992 the United States celebrated the Quincentennial of his voyage.  The Christopher Columbus Quincenary Jubilee Commission published a variety of items on him.  If you search “Christopher Columbus” at the Archival Research Catalog, you can find posters, videos and other documents related to the celebration and to Columbus himself.  You may also want to visit the National Park Service to find information on him.   

Finally, visit your local depository library!  Here’s just a sample of some of the documents that we have here from our federal collection.

  • Bertelli, Timoteo. Discovery of magnetic declination made by Christopher Columbus. (1892) USDA.  Available at: p.d.  551.5 Un58w no.11
  • Herbert, John R., editor. 1492, an ongoing voyage. (1992) Library of Congress. Available at: LC 1.2:V 94
  • De Vorsey, Louis. Keys to the encounter: a Library of Congress resource guide for the study of the Age of Discovery. (1992) LC. Available at: LC 1.6/4:K 52
  • Columbus. (1992) NPS, US Dept of the Interior. Available at: I 29.2:C 72
  • Chambers, Ann Baldessarini, editor. Columbus in the Capitol. (1992) Congress. H.doc. 102-319. Available at: Y1.1/7:102-319

We also have several documents dealing with the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Commission.

Interested in other early explorers?  Here’s a site from the Smithsonian that deals with the Vikings.  You may also be interested in Lewis and Clark.  Go here  to see what the National Archives have to offer!

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