Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The Evolution of the Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs officially began in 1776. Created by the Continental Congress to provide pensions to soldiers in the Revolutionary War, the Department traces its roots back to the Plymouth Colony in 1636, and has provided American veterans with an ever-expanding package of benefits and health care services.

After the US Congress expanded and consolidated veterans’ services in 1924 and in 1928, President Herbert Hoover signed into law Executive Order 5398 in 1930 and promoted the Veterans Bureau to a federal administration. This created the Veterans Administration, which was an even more consolidated and expansive veterans’ benefits program. Smaller parts of the Veterans Bureau, such as the National Homes and the Pension Bureau, also joined the Administration. Brigadier General Frank T. Hines became the first Administrator of the modern Department of Veterans Affairs.

World War II brought many more soldiers to Veterans Affairs, with Congress passing laws providing veterans with more services, the most famous of which was the GI Bill, which allowed returning soldiers to attend college tuition-free and receive federal home loans. The VA administered the benefits from the GI Bill, signed into law on June 22, 1944. Scholars now argue that the GI Bill has affected the American way of life more than any law since the Homestead Act of 1862.

Susan M. Taylor is proud to be a part of the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs. She was the Deputy Chief Procurement Officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, for four and a half years before she retired in November 2014.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

How to Safely Store Your Civil War Artifacts

Creating a good environment to store your Civil War artifacts in is an important aspect of preserving your treasures. There are certain things that you need to be aware of when storing your artifacts because each artifact responds differently depending on the environment where it is kept. Paper and textile artifacts are especially sensitive to moisture and temperature changes. Paper and textile will physically respond to humidity and temperature change, thus affecting the condition and value of the artifact.

The wrong environmental conditions will have a negative effect on your artifact. Certain conditions may create harmful chemical reactions, encourage the growth of mold, and increase the activity and presence of insects in and around your artifacts. Visible signs of damage, including cockling, which is the distortion and rippling of paper, warping in book covers, for example, or foxing, which is when reddish-brown spots start to appear on textile and paper. Avoiding damages is simple.

There are a number of safe places to store your artifacts. You can store your artifacts under a bed as long as everything is kept covered and in a box. You could also store artifacts on high shelves in finished basements because finished basements have a more controlled temperature and humidity level. Do not use high shelves if they are placed alongside exterior concrete walls. If you have smaller boxes of artifacts, then you could keep those at the back of a bookshelf or in a closet that is built within interior walls.

Susan M. Taylor is a Civil War artifact and art collector.