REPORT OF THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NATIONAL COALITION FOR HISTORY ACCOMPLISHMENTS FY-2006
Prepared 31 December 2006 (PDF Version)
I. ADVOCACY AND POLICY
When the 109th Congress adjourned sine die in December, Republican control of Congress came to an end. Left unfinished were eleven outstanding FY 2007 appropriation bills – bills that fund virtually all domestic federal agencies. In December 2006, the incoming Democratic leadership decided to extend the current levels of federal agency funding through the rest of the fiscal year, thus allowing lawmakers to focus attention on the FY 2008 budget. As a consequence, much of the National Coalition for History’s (NCH) work (as well as that of all other stakeholder communities) in the realm of appropriations for 2007 went unrealized as all federal agencies whose budgets were not approved by the close of the 109th Congress – including all those of key concern to the history and archives communities – in FY 2006, will operate within the fiscal confines of 2006 levels. Hence, the history coalition’s appropriation’s work in 2006, in essence, served double duty for FY 2007.
FY 2006 funding levels, for the most part, are lower than what was proposed in FY 2007. For the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) the agency will receive an operating budget of $325.535 million – some $12 million less than the $338 million that was requested by the president for FY 2007. In the NARA budget, there is one winner – the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The commission budget is slotted at $7.425 million — $5.5 million for grants and $2 million for administrative costs; this represents a half million increase over what most insiders expected the House and Senate would have agreed to for the NHPRC in FY 2007. Another winner is the Department of Education’s “Teaching American History” initiative, which will see a funding level of $121 million – the amount appropriated to the program in FY 2006 and the same as proposed by Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) in the Senate for FY 2007; this figure is some $71 million more than recommended by President Bush in his FY 2007 budget proposal. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is slotted to receive $140.949 million – about what was proposed for the agency in FY 2007 by President Bush; this will probably mean some moderate belt-tightening for the agency.
With the control of Congress now squarely in the hands of the Democrats, and with the fiscally conservative decision by the incoming Democratic appropriation chiefs, President Bush realized his overall budget recommendation for FY 2007 – that being “level funding” for most domestic agencies. Ironically, it took a change in control of Congress from the Republicans to the Democrats to achieve the fiscally-conservative goal that the president all along sought for domestic agencies in FY 2007.
Testimony Submissions/Congressional and Agency Advocacy:
This year, the history coalition as well as several of its member organizations, submitted written testimony to Congress on behalf of many federal agencies and programs, including the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
The history coalition also continued its tradition of providing Congressional staff, lawmakers, and agency policy makers advice and at times constructive criticism of various legislative measures and regulatory actions under consideration. Of particular note this year was the history coalition’s work on the Higher Education Act (S. 609), preliminary discussions on amendments to the “No Child Left Behind” reauthorization, and an ill-conceived proposal (H.R. 4846) titled, “To Authorize Grants for Contributions Toward the Establishment of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library.”
The membership of the House Humanities Caucus that was initiated in 2005 grew to more than sixty members; in 2006, due to the leadership of Representatives David Price (D-NC) and James Leach (R-IA), the caucus became a vehicle to build Congressional support for increasing the funding levels for the NEH and the NHPRC. Once again, during the National Humanities Alliance annual lobby day event, history coalition representatives played an important role in securing member "sign-ons" to the new caucus.
Formula Grant Initiatives:
This year the archival community launched its “Partnership for the American Historical Record” (PAHR) initiative – a major new legislative effort designed to increase the authorization and appropriation of the NHPRC to a figure in excess of $10 million (the NHPRC’s current authorization); new monies would be used to fund the start-up of a state-based formula grant program for archives.
Similarly, work continued on a second state-based formula grant program that two years ago was initiated by several history coalition member organizations to benefit the museum community. The history coalition is a founding member of the “Federal Formula Grant Coalition.” In these two advocacy efforts special recognition goes to NCH member organizations the Society of American Archivists, Council of State Archivists, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators and the American Association for State and Local History.
"Teaching American History" Initiative:
When the 110th Congress convenes, Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) will become Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Byrd, the prime mover behind the "Teaching American History" (TAH) that is administered through the Department of Education (ED) continues to provide leadership and direction for this initiative. Once again this year history coalition and member organization representatives met with Senator Byrd’s staff to insure that the initiative would continue to be funded at about $121 million and to address other program-related concerns.
Following up on one of last year’s major advocacy accomplishments of seeing language inserted into the FY-2005 ED appropriation bill setting aside a portion of the TAH appropriation go to the support of "national programs" (approximately $3.6 million). In June, the history coalition and several member organizations representatives were part of a technical working group that participated in an ED-sponsored planning workshop designed to lay the foundation for one of the programs being funded out of this special set-aside – a national clearinghouse to support teaching American history. The clearinghouse will assist the field in promoting high-quality, content-rich professional development to teachers of American history.
Through its partnerships with various humanities and preservation organizations and coalitions (especially the National Humanities Alliance, Americans for National Parks, and OpentheGovernment.org) the NCH also continued its long-term support of National Park Service historic preservation programs (including the Historic Preservation Fund, "Save America Treasures" program), the Library of Congress, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. This year, during its April 2006 meeting, the NCH Policy Board voted to have the history coalition become a founding member the Federal Formula Grant Coalition – a coalition advocating a state formula grant program for museums. During this meeting, the Policy Board also passed a resolution in support of the proposed state formula grant program for archives (PAHR). The NCH also joined the “Net Neutrality Coalition,” a group of organizations with an interest in the “net neutrality” issue. To that end, the NCH co-signed letters with other members of the coalition a number of communications to members of Congress on this issue.
Freedom of Information Authorizing Legislation and Public Access Declassification Board:
During the 109th Congress several legislative measures were introduced and considered relating to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and government openness. Congress, however, failed to enact any meaningful reform in the realm of government openness.
On the positive side, the Public Access Declassification Board (PIDB) – the board envisioned by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to provide oversight and public involvement in matters relating to government openness – became a reality and began meeting on a routine basis in 2006. NCH Executive Director Bruce Craig served as a panelist in the opening session of the PIDB and provided comments and suggestions to the board on its direction and potential future.
History Education Authorizing Legislation:
While 2005 saw a number of legislative issues relating to history education become a reality (i.e. Senator Lamar Alexander’s Presidential and Congressional academies). Several bills were introduced in this first session of the 109th Congress: i.e. a re-authorization of the Higher Education Act (S. 609); "American History Achievement Act" (S. 860); "American History for Freedom" Act (S. 1614 / H.R. 2858) – the latter legislation is the first bill in recent years to provide funding for American history education at the post-secondary school level. With the exception of a temporary extension of the Higher Education Act, none of these measures were enacted during the 109th Congress.
With the anticipated consideration of the “No Child Left Behind” reauthorization in 2007-08, NCH member organization the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) began assembling a working-group of interested parties to begin discussion focusing on constructive reform of the NCLB measure. NCH representatives have attended several of these meetings and will continue to do so in 2007.
Legislative and Policy Interventions on Behalf of the National Parks and Historic Sites:
The NCH continued its support of the Heritage Area Partnership Act (S. 760 and related versions S. 203 / S. 243) – legislation that seeks to establish a national policy on the creation and establishment of national heritage areas. Unfortunately, Congress did not enact this legislation during the 109th Congress.
In December 2005 the history coalition provided critical comments in a detailed 7-page assessment (which also served as a model letter for member organization comment submissions) of the draft rewrite of NPS Management Policies. In 2006, the NPS announced changes to the document, generally consistent with NCH and its member organization’s positions.
Staff continued to coordinate meetings between NCH member organizations and NPS officials in an effort to prod the bureau along to fill the NPS Chief Historian position vacancy that came open last year following the retirement of veteran Chief Historian, Dwight Pitcaithley. Late in 2006, shortly after the appointment of Mary Bomar as the new NPS Director, a vacancy announcement was posted on USA JOBS seeking qualified applicants from “all sources.” The NCH continues to monitor developments as the bureau moves forward in filling this critical agency position.
Other Legislative Initiatives:
In toto, the history coalition monitored the developments of over 80 history/archives related bills and reported on their progress to readers of our weekly publication the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE. Of particular interest to the history and archives communities were: the "Artists Contribution to American Heritage Act" (S. 372 and similar version of the "Artists Museum Partnership Act" — H.R. 1120 / S.372) – a measure that sought to provide tax incentives for artists, scholars and writers to donate their work to non-profit entities; the “Presidential Sites Improvement Bill” (S. 431 / H.R. 927) – legislation designed to provide a funding stream for these unique historic sites; and “To Authorize Grants for Contributions Toward the Establishment of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library (H.R. 4846) – a bill the NCH opposed that sets a dangerous precedent of funding private presidential sites with NARA funds. In part due to the NCH objections, in the closing hours of the 109th Congress, the Senate did not act on the bill and let it die.
In summary, the 109th Congress was not exactly stellar in terms of enacting legislation of interest to the history and archive communities. Congress did extend the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (P.L. 109-05), it established the Sand Creek Massacre site as a national park unit (P.L. 109-45), it authorized the creation of a statue of Rosa Parks for placement in the Capitol (P.L. 109-116), and it created a number of new National Heritage Areas (109-338). We can only hope that the 110th Congress will be more productive in enacting history/archives related measures.
II. HISTORY COALITION INITIATIVES AND ISSUES OF CONCERN ADDRESSED
Lost/Stolen/Missing Documents Initiative:
Since 2003 the NCH has informally monitored various on-line auction sites for lost, stolen, or missing artifacts and manuscript materials. With a grant of $20,000 provided by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), in 2004, the NCH began systematic monitoring of auction sites. That work continued throughout 2006.
To date, though its contractor and principal investigator, the NCH has systematically monitored over sixty auction sites. Well over 40,000 documents have been surveyed and over 1,000 questionable documents have been referred to NARA for action. Of those, as of 1 October 2006, 938 document cases have been closed; 51 items remain under investigation; 12 previously unaccessioned documents have been retrieved and 7 stolen items have been returned to NARA. In addition to referring documents to NARA documentary items originating from state archives (i.e. New York, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, and West Virginia) as well as documents originating from several foreign countries (i.e. the Russian Federation, Bolivia, and Peru) were referred to appropriate officials for action.
Through the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE and articles that appeared in national publications and news websites, a concerted effort was made to raise public awareness of the stolen and mishandled documents issue. This year the contractor, principal investigator, and NARA representatives attended the PADA autograph show in New York as well as the New York Antiquarian Book Fair where brochures were distributed to dealers.
National History Center and Congressional Breakfast Seminars:
A number of years back the NCH initiated efforts to hold a series of Congressional breakfast seminars designed to inject a historical contextual dimension into policy discussions on Capitol Hill. In 2004 that activity was transferred to the National History Center to administer. This year, the history coalition continued to provide support for this important Congressional outreach effort. The history coalition’s executive director continues to serve as a member of the planning committee of the National History Center.
Human Subjects Review and Oral History:
For several years the NCH has supported the activities of member organization’s the American Historical Association (AHA) and the Oral History Association (OHA) in their ongoing effort to negotiate an agreement with the federal Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP) to exclude oral history from regulatory oversight and review by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). This year, the NCH continued to provide input and assistance to these member organizations in their ongoing effort to clarify the OHRP’s position on oral history.
Presidential Records Executive Order and Presidential Library Issues:
Presidential libraries and records have long been an interest to the NCH. On 1 November 2001, President Bush issued Executive Order (EO) 13233 entitled, "Further Implementation of the Presidential Records Act." The order replaces President Reagan’s Executive Order 12667 (issued 18 January 1989) and reinterprets aspects of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 (PRA). At that time several history coalition members filed suit in a federal court in Washington, D.C. seeking to overturn the Bush EO.
This year the legal battle over presidential records continued without court resolution. NCH continued working with agency and White House officials and the lawsuit plaintiffs to see the legal challenge to its conclusion. On 24 September 2005 federal Judge Kollar-Kotelly issued a second ruling (decided in the government’s favor) relating to the lawsuit. Yet to be addressed is the final and most important contested issue relating to the constitutionality of certain provisions of the PRA. To this end, Public Citizen Litigation Group filed briefs in October 2005; a decision on this last remaining (and most important) count of the plaintiffs original filing is still pending. In addition, through periodic meetings with White House and administration officials efforts are ongoing to see that especially offensive provisions are modified in a future amended reissue of the E.O.
This year the Reagan Presidential Library continued to release of certain presidential documents (exemption P-2, P-5 records) as did the George Bush Presidential Library. The history coalition monitored these releases with a particular eye toward library redactions and reported findings in the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE.
In 2005, the NCH Executive Director participated on a task force on presidential libraries that examined the museum/public outreach aspects of presidential libraries sponsored by the Princeton Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies. The conference resulted in the issuance this year of a report entitled "Museums in Presidential Libraries: A First Report on Policies, Practices and Performance." This year, the Executive Director assisted in the review and pre-publication details of a special issue of The Public Historian (Summer 2006) devoted to the topic of presidential libraries. In addition, NCH Executive Director Bruce Craig’s article titled “Presidential Libraries and Museums: Opportunities for Genuine Reform” (an article in response to the special-issue publication) appeared in the fall issue of The Public Historian (Fall 2006). He also assisted the National Park Service on a steering committee in planning the bi-annual conference on presidential sites that took place in June 2006.
Throughout 2006 the NCH’s work relating to the designation of the Nixon Library and Birthplace as a presidential library continued. For several years, the Nixon Foundation has advanced plans for the private museum to become a full-fledged NARA presidential library. Consistent with the terms of an agreement between NARA and the Nixon Foundation, in 2006 the Nixon library was brought into the NARA presidential library system. However, the foundation’s effort to have the federal government pay for the construction of archival repository (an action that is contrary to the spirit if not letter of law as outlined in the Presidential Library Act) also continued, as did the NCH’s opposition to the foundation’s plan. Because of the failure of FY 2007 Treasury/Transportation federal appropriations bill to be enacted, it remains unclear whether the special appropriation discussed in the House report for that bill relating to the construction of the archival facility will materialize.
Finally, for the fourth year in a row, the history coalition submitted nominations for the Paul Peck Presidential Awards for "Service to the President" and "Portrayal of a President." After three years of submissions in 2006 our nominee – Arthur Schlesinger Jr. – was among the selected award winners. A number of NCH Policy Board members represented the history coalition at the gala award dinner.
This year, history coalition staff continued to attend and monitor the activities of the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, the Department of Defense Historical Records Declassification Advisory Panel, the Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress, and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). Periodic reports of the activities of these entities was communicated broadly through the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE.
The declassification event of the year was the discovery of a secret reclassification effort by NARA of documents previously open to the public that was exposed by independent researcher Matthew M. Aid. The history coalition played a key role in meetings with NARA and other government officials that resulted in the secret program being terminated. As a result of the publicity generated by this issue, the House of Representatives conducted a hearing on records declassification. NCH member organization The National Security Archive deserves special recognition for its aggressive pursuit of this issue throughout the year.
After several years of meetings, direct and indirect advocacy efforts with Congressional staff, in 2005 the Speaker of the House appointed an official House Historian, professor Robert Remini, formerly with the University of Illinois at Chicago. This year, the Executive Director met with Professor Remini on several occasions to discuss the working relationship between the House Historian’s office and the Clerk of the House’s companion entity, the Office of History and Preservation. This year, professor Remini’s Congressionally-sanctioned history of the House of Representatives was published.
Proposed Closing of Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Reading Room:
Late this year the Library of Congress (LC) announced its intention to consolidate the African and Middle Eastern Readings Rooms in order to make room for a new exhibit. Concerns were raised by the history coalition and others. In the end, the LC reversed its position and abandoned the planned consolidation.
Smithsonian’s Showtime Agreement:
In 2006, the Smithsonian Institution (SI) entered into a semi-exclusive agreement with the Showtime Network to produce a series of pay-for-view television programs that deal with the SI. Concern was raised by documentary filmmakers, historians, scholars, archivists and others over certain provisions in the contract that grants Showtime in some instances exclusive access to Smithsonian collections, resources, and staff. The NCH joined with other concerned parties to form an informal coalition that sought to raise public and Congressional concern over the terms of the agreement. While there is Congressional interest in the agreement, and a GAO report has been issued, at this writing, the contract remains in place.
III. EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
Conferences and Presentations:
The history coalition’s education and outreach program was scaled back somewhat due to the busy Congressional calendar. Nevertheless, the executive director made presentations during the National Humanities Alliance’s Lobby Day event and in a “Special Humanities Briefing” sponsored by the National Humanities Alliance that targeted Congressional staff. Update presentations were made to the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Society of American Archivists, and National Council on Public History boards of directors.
Three presentations were made to introductory public history courses at the American University and at the George Washington University. The Executive Director taught a policy history course at American University and delivered the David E. Brandenburg Memorial Lecture titled, “The Future of History” during American University’s Phi Alpha Theta awards dinner.
Publications and Action Alerts:
Throughout the year the NCH continued to provide its supporters with the weekly electronic communication, the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE. Currently, direct H-Net subscriptions to the UPDATE remains steady at around 1,500 direct subscribers with secondary distribution to 600-plus H-net editors, to the SEDIT list of documentary editors, as well as through a weekly posting on George Mason University’s History News Network webpage.
The program that was launched three years ago in which NCH ACTION ALERTS were issued separate from the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE continued throughout 2006. This year a half dozen ALERTS sought to motivate readers of the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE to contact congressional representatives urging them to support programs that benefit history. Most of the alerts focused on the funding needs of the National Archives and Records Administration (including the NHPRC) and the NEH. Some NHPRC alerts were transmitted to targeted e-mail lists of AHA/OAH/SAA members who resided in the targeted states and Congressional districts.
NCH columns continue to reach a broad but targeted audience of historians (30,000), museum professionals (10,000), and archivists (4,000) through the newsletters of professional organizations. These include the American Historical Association Perspectives, the Organization of American Historians OAH Newsletter, the Society of American Archivists Archival Outlook, the National Council on Public History Public History News, and the American Association for State and Local History AASLH Dispatch. Articles and news briefs were also reprinted in institutional supporter newsletters and online via the History News Network.
The Executive Director’s article titled “Presidential Libraries and Museums: Opportunities for Genuine Reform” appeared in the fall issue of The Public Historian (Fall 2006).
IV. ORGANIZATION BUILDING
Selection of New Executive Director:
This year, Bruce Craig who has served as NCH Executive Director for the last seven years informed the Policy Board that as of 1 January 2007 he was moving to Prince Edward Island, Canada, where he will begin teaching at the University of Prince Edward Island and pursuing long-neglected independent research interests.
Following the announcement a Search Committee chaired by Arnita Jones of the American Historical Association conducted a nationwide search for Craig’s successor. Other members of the committee (in alphabetical order) were: Nancy Beaumont (Society of American Archivists), Charlene Bickford (Association for Documentary Editors), Lee Formwalt (Organization of American Historians), James Gardner (National Council on Public History), Martha Kumar (American Political Science Association) and Brian Martin (History Associates). Lee White was selected as Executive Director. White, whose most recent position was that of Director of Government Relations for the National Society of Professional Engineers; he possesses a degree in law and a Masters degree in History from the George Mason University.
Last year, a Strategic Planning Committee was authorized to begin work on an update to the plan originally devised in 2001. The board committee chaired by National Council for Public History NCH representative James Gardner assisted by History Associates’s Brian Martin and with input from additional contributors from the history coalition’s diverse membership completed its work and reported out a revised strategic plan that was approved by the NCH Policy Board in December 2006. The plan was posted to the NCH web page.
The history coalition’s student intern program continued with the part-time assistance of two student interns –– Nathaniel Kulyk and Emily Weisner (both from The American University) assisted the executive director in the totality of the NCH operations.
Grant and Other Special Funding:
A grant application was approved by NARA for the second year in a row to support of the Stolen Documents Monitoring initiative. Once again the National Coalition for History was accepted into the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) for the 2007 work-place fund-raising drive. The history coalition participates in that campaign as a member of the Conservation, Preservation Federation of America (CPCA). Partly as a result of the annual internet solicitation posting by the Society for History in the Federal Government in the 2006 CFC campaign pledges to the NCH topped $9,000.
In the effort to comply with federal regulations requiring an annual audit, independent auditor Jeff Secker of Secker and Associates P.C. was engaged for the second year in a row to perform the annual audit. In order to facilitate the audit and better maintain the history coalition’s financial records a contract bookkeeper was hired in 2006.
The history coalition is pleased to welcome several new members: The National History Center and the Florida Council for the Social Studies. Also, a number of member organizations also raised their contribution levels; they include: ABC CLIO, American Historical Association, Association for Documentary Editing, Center for History and New Media, The History Channel, Mid-Atlantic Archives Conference, and the Society for Military History. To date, several member organizations have yet to submit their annual donation, have not meet donation targets, or have reduced their annual contribution: American Society for Legal History, Conference Group for Central European History, H-NET Humanities On-line, Phi Alpha Theta, Polish American Historical Association, Society of Southwest Archivists, National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, The Manuscript Society, and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers.
Bruce Craig, Executive Director