In October, Congress enacted into law, the “Presidential Historical Records Preservation Act of 2008” (PL 110-404, S. 3477) to promote funding to preserve, digitize, and provide online access to documents of historical significance that may not have received funding in the past. This week, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee issued a report (S. Rept. 110-525) making it clear it that the new programs created under the law should not supersede existing categories of grants in competing for National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) funds.
On December 2, 2008, the Nixon Presidential Library will be opening approximately 198 hours of tape recordings from the Nixon White House recorded between November and December 1972 and consisting of approximately 1,398 conversations. The conversations cover topics such as the 1972 Presidential and Congressional elections, the late stages of the peace negotiations to end the Vietnam War, and the decision to bomb the Hanoi and Haiphong areas in North Vietnam.
On November 18, 2008, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) met in Washington, DC. The biggest news to emerge from the meeting was the announcement of a $250,000 grant award to the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities on behalf of Documents Compass for a new pilot project to transcribe and encode for online and print publication documents on behalf of documentary editing projects from the Founding Era of the nation.
The National Coalition for History recently urged the incoming Obama administration to reverse the secrecy trend of the last eight years and to restore openness in the executive branch. Three separate proposals call on President-elect Obama to restore efficiency and openness to the Freedom of Information Act process, reform the classification system to reduce overclassification and facilitate greater declassification, and ensure presidential records are handled in accordance with existing law and Congress’ intent.
Over the past week, the leadership of the two congressional committees with oversight over the National Archives and National Historical Publications and Records Commission was settled. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (ID-CT) will retain his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee after efforts to oust him from the job because of his outspoken support of John McCain for president failed. In the House, Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) won his battle to take the helm of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
On November 21, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History reopened its doors to the public, providing a new viewing room for the almost 200-year-old Star-Spangled Banner. The museum reopened after a two-year, $85 million renovation that was paid for with $45.9 million in federal funds and $39.1 million in private contributions. The renovation project focused on three areas: architectural enhancements to the center core, including a grand staircase and skylight; construction of the new Star-Spangled Banner Gallery; and updates to the 44-year-old building’s infrastructure.
The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) recently issued a memorandum reminding outgoing federal agency senior officials and employees that they should not take classified information with them if they are leaving government service at the end of the Bush administration.
On November 17, President George W. Bush awarded the National Humanities Medals for 2008 during a ceremony held in the White House East Room. Nine distinguished Americans, one museum, and a philanthropic foundation were honored for their contributions to the humanities. Three historians, Gabor S. Borritt, Richard Brookhiser and Harold Holzer, were among those receiving the award.
President-elect Barack Obama’s transition office recently announced the names of the transition review team leaders for the National Archives and Records Administration and the National Endowments for the Humanities and Arts.