The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will reopen its doors to the public on Friday, Nov. 21, 2008. The reopening will mark the completion of a two-year, $85 million renovation of the building’s center core and internal infrastructure. The centerpiece of the renovation is a specially designed viewing gallery for the 200-year-old Star-Spangled Banner. The renovation was funded through a public-private partnership with $46 million in federal funds and the remaining $39 million from individuals, foundations and corporations.
On July 29, 2008, the House of Representatives passed a series of bills designed to facilitate public access to unclassified records. The bills are expected to be rolled into a larger reauthorization bill for the Department of Homeland Security later this year.
The House Natural Resources Committee has cleared the National Park Centennial Fund bill (H.R. 3094, H. Rept. 110-795) for consideration by the House. The legislation establishes the National Park Centennial Fund and authorizes $30 million in annual spending from fiscal year 2009 through fiscal year 2018. The $30 million a year funding level for the next ten years is far below the $100 million per-year the Administration had initially requested for the program.
On July 29, 2008, the House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution (H. Res. 194) formally apologizing to African Americans on behalf of the people of the United States “for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow,” era segregation.
On July 31, 2008, the House Administration Committee approved a bill (H.R. 998) directing the Library of Congress and the National Museum of African American History and Culture to collect video and audio recordings of histories of participants in the Civil Rights movement. The bill would authorize $500,000 in fiscal 2009 to begin the oral history project.
On July 22, 2008, a federal court in New York decided that the government must release most of the sealed grand jury records from the 1951 indictment of alleged Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The petitioners include the American Historical Association, the American Society for Legal History, the National Security Archive at George Washington University, the Organization of American Historians, the Society of American Archivists, and New York Times reporter Sam Roberts.
On July 23, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee cleared two bills designed to standardize and minimize the use of information control designations by the federal government on information that is not classified (H.R. 6576) and to prevent the over-classification of federal information (H.R. 6575).
Recently, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced legislation (S. 3276) to apply the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and the Privacy Act to the Smithsonian Institution.
The passage of fiscal year 2009 appropriations bills for federal agencies remains bogged down due to a partisan battle over allowing amendments to the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies funding bill concerning domestic oil production. The chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have both put a hold on further consideration of FY ’09 funding bills until a solution or compromise is reached.