Baby, It’s Cold Inside!

Today’s post is written by Daniel Dancis, an archivist at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

As most of the eastern seaboard is experiencing record setting low temperatures this week, it is timely to look back at a letter written by then-Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. to the Office of the Sergeant At Arms of the United States Senate.

In the letter, dated November 30, 1983, the Delaware Senator gives precise details about the uncomfortably low temperatures inside the Boggs Federal Building, where he and his staff perform their duties.  He goes on to diagnose the problem and request a solution. A follow up letter from the General Services Administration explains the temperature settings and action taken in response to the Senator’s letter, including correcting a drafty window.

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Letter from Senator Joe Biden to Phil Larsen, Sargeant at Arms, Nov. 30 1983.

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Letter from L. L. Mitchell to Phillip Larsen, Sargeant at Arms, Dec. 20, 1983.

This letter struck a chord with me as I came across it while working in the temperature-controlled stacks at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) building in College Park, MD. Controlling temperature and humidity is very important for preserving records and extending their lifetime, something that is given a lot of attention at NARA.  It can also lead to energy savings as detailed in this paper by our Preservation Staff.

While this might be of little comfort to Senate office workers from 1983, I am warmed by the thought that every effort is made to protect our nation’s records, even if it means that I wear an extra layer of clothing when I’m processing them.


This correspondence and other congressional correspondence can be found in Reading Files Pertaining to Congressional Correspondence of the Office of Congressional Affairs, 1979-1983 (NAID 20014289), Record Group 269: General Records of the General Services Administration (GSA), 1922-1989, 1994.

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