U.S. Army Military History Institute, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center
by Michael Doidge
University of Southern Mississippi
Graduate students interested in conducting research at the Army Heritage and Education Center, home of the Military History Institute, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, will find an expertly staffed state-of-the-art of research facility. Located in Ridgway Hall, the archive primarily houses the U.S. Army’s unofficial records, which include letters, speeches, lectures, journals, personal papers, manuscript, films, photographs, and artifact collections of U.S. Army personnel from all ranks and walks of life. The archive also houses voluminous book and periodical collections and, where possible, copies of official Army documents.
As a general rule, graduate students should contact any archive they intend to visit two weeks prior to their arrival. Carlisle is no different. While the archive is effective at quickly delivering documents to researchers, the sheer volume of materials housed there will easily overwhelm unprepared graduate students and cause them to lose valuable research time. Meticulous graduate students who plan their research well in advance with the aid of one of archive’s knowledgeable staffers will benefit most from the archive’s holdings, and will leave themselves plenty of time to examine extraneous materials which inevitably find their way into any research visit. Graduate students should be aware that researchers are not permitted within the stacks and that not all of the archive’s holdings are listed online. Some of the collections are located within internal databases not open to the public and can only be accessed with the aid of a staffer.
Carlisle boasts a great number of amenities to facilitate research. Within the research facility, lockers are provided for camera and laptop bags, as well as coats. Each research table contains receptacles at the center where researchers may plug in their laptops and battery chargers. The archive has wireless internet, as well as numerous public terminals with internet access. Graduate students with a camera may bring their tripod into the research room, or ask one of the staffers for a camera stand, which they may use free of charge, but are available on a first-come, first served basis. The archive has a public pay-per-use copier. For oversized documents, all manuscript materials, and photographs, the staff can make copies for an extra fee.
Beyond the research facility, Carlisle is located at the intersection of numerous highways, which include routes 81 and 76 (known locally as the Pennsylvania Turnpike), and it is not far from where routes 78 and 83 end. For the budget-minded graduate student, the town is an excellent place to perform research. Numerous clean and thrifty hotels and motels are located a few miles from the archive at exits 45, 47, and 52A off route 81. Many of the hotels and motels offer rewards programs and have rates as low as thirty to forty dollars a night. Eating within the town proper is equally as cash-friendly for the well-informed. Carlisle boasts many excellent mom-and-pop restaurants and more than its fair share of diners which serve tasty and filling dinner fare for as low as ten to fifteen dollars a meal. The budget-conscious graduate student can expect to perform research at Carlisle for $45 to $55 a day. To further offset research costs, the archive also offers the Matthew B. Ridgway Research Grant.