Employee cuts at U.S. Space and Rocket Center have historian concerned about future of 'exceptional' archives

Historians in the News

HUNTSVILLE, AL -- "The archives are closed."

That's what author Diane McWhorter was initially told Thursday when she returned to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center archives to continue research for a book about Huntsville during the Saturn V/Apollo moon race years.

Irene Wilhite, longtime curator of the archives, and her assistant, her son Jamie, learned Thursday they are among 16 full-time Space Center employees being dropped from the payroll.

They have been the whole staff overseeing the collection, which includes many of Dr. Wernher von Braun's manuscripts, papers and mementos, as well as those donated by a number of members of his famous team of rocket scientists.

"Those archives are crucial," said McWhorter, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for "Carry Me Home," a narrative history of growing up in Birmingham amid the racial turmoil of the 1960s. She said if the trove at the Space Center was unavailable, it would be a huge loss....

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