The US is sending the files on some 21 million immigrants to the National Archives, revealing volumes of early 20th-century history, USA Today reports. The documents tell the stories of celebrities like Salvador Dali as well as the successes and tribulations of ordinary people, from refugees to “enemy aliens.” “As a collection, they document the story of American immigration,” says an official.
That includes both the “wonders” and “blemishes” of the story, he says. The records, assembled under a 1940 law, include photos, birth certificates, letters, and transcripts of conversations, telling odd tidbits—Dali apparently wasn’t sure how tall he was—and longer tales, like that of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which set quotas on Chinese immigrants. The materials are headed to Archives centers near San Francisco and Kansas City.