Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress Meets

On June 13, the Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress (ACRC) met at the U.S Capitol Visitor Center.

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.

Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson began the meeting by noting that eight Senators had already announced their retirements following the 2012 election and her office was working with them to identify repositories for their records. She announced that 200+ boxes of Senate records from the 99th Congress, and 36 boxes more than 50 years old, had been entered into the declassification process. These records come mainly from the files of the Armed Services, Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committee.

Clerk of the House Karen

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Haas announced the appointment of Sharon Leon, the Director of Public Projects at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, to the ACRC. Ms. Haas stated that the reorganization of the Office of History and Preservation into the Office of the Historian and the Office of Art and Archives had been completed. Dr. Matthew Wasniewski, the Historian of the House, provided an update on the activities of his office.

Archivist of the United States David Ferriero updated the ACRC on the reorganization taking place at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The Archivist stated that interviews for the head of the new Office of Legislative Archives, President Libraries and Museum Services office had been completed and that he expected the position would be filled in the near future. Mr. Ferriero also reported on a new Research Fellowship in Legislative Records that had been established. He concluded by announcing that Congressmen Donald A. Manzullo (R-IL) and Tim Bishop (D-NY) were in the process of organizing an “Archives Caucus” in the House.

Archivist of the Senate Karen Paul noted that her staff had assisted in the closing of 18 Senate offices last year. She reported that two more Senate committees (Budget and Indian Affairs) had hired staff archivists bringing the total to ten archivists working on nine committees. 12 out of 17 Senate committees are now archiving their electronic records.

Sheryl Vogt, Director, Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia Libraries provided an update on the annual meeting of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC) that was held in May. She noted the ACSC has recently added five new members, bringing total membership up to 35 institutions.

House Archivist Robin Reeder reported that her office continues its efforts to advise House committee staff and personal offices on proper records management policies.

Robert Horton, Director of the Minnesota Historical Society and State Archivist, and also the chair of the Advisory Committee’s Task Force on Description, provided the Task Force’s evaluation of the Center for History and New Media’s report: “Recommendations for Center for Legislative Archives Next-Generation Finding Aids.” The Task Force reviewed the report’s recommendations on the ways and means to improve the Center’s descriptive practices to improve public access to the records of Congress. Two pilot programs are currently underway to test new descriptive approaches, one using the records of the 75th Congress (1937-1938) and the other focusing on the 95th Congress (1977-1978).

Richard Hunt, Director of the Center for Legislative Archives, and Matt Fulgham, Assistant Director, reported on the implementation plan for the descriptive project and the progress made to date.

A motion was adopted to approve the report. Archivist Ferriero expressed his concerns that more concrete estimates were needed of the financial and staff resources it will take to implement and complete the new descriptive approaches and practices.