Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress Meets

On April 27, the Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress (ACRC) met at the U.S. Capitol. The Advisory Committee is comprised of the officials in Congress responsible for its records (Clerk of the House, Secretary of the Senate, Senate Historian, and House Historian) and the Archivist of the United States, who is responsible for the administration of the archived records of Congress.

House and Senate leadership appoint public members of the committee, who represent historians, political scientists, congressional archivists, and other users and caretakers of legislative records. The Committee meets twice a year as required by law and continues to work actively to promote a more complete documentation of the legislative process.

After approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, Clerk of the House Lorraine Miller stated that the House has been grappling with the challenges posed by electronic records and she has created and a special Electronic Records Task Force

Martha Morphy, Assistant Archivist for Information Services at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) reported that in the May-June time frame, NARA’s Electronic Records Archive (ERA) staff would receive a report from its contractor Lockheed Martin Corporation outlining the scale and scope of changes that would have to be made to ERA to meet the unique requirements of House and Senate records. She the typical cycle of making changes/enhancements to ERA was 9-12 months and that NARA would have a better idea after the report is delivered when this could be accomplished.

U.S. Senate Archivist Karen Paul said her office had been dealing with the heavy workload that resulted from a large turnover in the Senate caused by retirements and the election. She reported that the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee was the only panel systematically sending electronic records to be preserved. Other committees were sending electronic records more sporadically. She noted that a major challenge would be addressing the backlogs from committee servers and setting up protocols to follow in transferring records.

House Archivist Robin Reeder stated that she had met with 20 committees and three support offices to discuss electronic records preservation. Reeder said she has also held nine meeting on specific records formats. She stated two committees are turning over records and ten more have said they are interested in doing so. Reeder stated she had also met with 45 offices of Members of Congress that were closing.

Ted Clark, with NARA’s Center for Legislative Archives provided an update on the office’s activities. He noted that the “web harvest” of the websites from the 110th Congress had been completed and 491 gigabytes of information had been captured and preserved. Clark noted that there has been an exponential explosion in the volume of electronic congressional records that are being transferred to NARA. He expected that the end this year, 21 terabytes of information would be transferred to the Center for Legislative Archives.

Richard Hunt, Director of the Center for Legislative Archives, presented a mid-year report and work plan to the advisory committee. He stated that two additional staff have been, or are in the process of, being hired.