REPORT OF THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NATIONAL COALITION FOR HISTORY ACCOMPLISHMENTS FY-2005
Prepared 15 December 2006
I. ADVOCACY AND POLICY
Appropriations: In spite of massive cuts in most domestic programs caused largely by the ongoing war in Iraq, in 2005 history and archives programs overall faired well in the realm of federal appropriations. Achieving this, however, particularly in an environment of fiscal austerity was no easy task.
Testimony Submissions: This year, the National Coalition for History (NCH), as well as several of its member organizations, submitted written testimony to Congress on behalf of two federal agencies: the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). 2005 saw the launching of the now 60-member plus House Humanities Caucus, a new tool for building broader Congressional support for the NEH. During the National Humanities Alliance annual lobby day event, history coalition representatives played an important role in securing many of the member “sign-ons” to the new caucus. As a result of all these efforts, the NEH “We the People” (WTP) history initiative received another multi-million dollar funding increase; the NEH realized a boost in FY 2006 to $142.3 million, up from $138.06 million in FY 2005. National Archives was appropriated $283 million, which included sufficient funds to continue development of the Electronic Records Archives (ERA).
Grassroots Advocacy on Behalf of the NHPRC: This year’s major achievement in the realm of appropriations was realized only because of the concerted effort by virtually the entire history, archives, and humanities community to secure funding for the National Historical Publication and Records Commission (NHPRC). The NHPRC had been zeroed out in the president’s budget, but Hill visits made by history coalition organizational representatives during the National Humanities Alliance “lobby day,” as well as hundreds of communications sent to Congress by state archivists and documentary editors, the submission of several history and archives petitions (including an unprecedented on-line petition drive coordinated by the state archivists) that targeted Congressional committees, resulted in a remarkable grassroots lobbying effort by NHPRC supporters. Capping off the lobby effort was a final organizational sign-on letter coordinated by the history coalition that was endorsed by nine major member organizations and forwarded to House and Senate conferees. In the end the commission was appropriated $5.5 million with an additional $2 million to cover administrative and staffing for a total of $7.2 million. While these numbers fall far short of the $10 million full-funding goal for the NHPRC, nevertheless, this figure is far better than termination of this important program as the White House had recommended. Special recognition is due the herculean efforts of member organizations, the Association for Documentary Editing, Society of American Archivists, Council of State Archivists, and the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators.
New Funding Stream in Support of “Teaching American History” Initiative: Thanks to the continued support of Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), the Department of Education’s “Teaching American History” (TAH) initiative was funded yet again at about $120 million. In part due to a meeting and follow-up work by history coalition representatives and staff with Senator Byrd’s legislative assistant, a long-term history coalition goal – seeing a portion of the TAH appropriation go to the support of “national programs” – was realized. In FY 2006 there is a “3% of appropriated funds” set-aside (approximately $3.6 million) for such programs. Next year, many history coalition member organizations will be able to potentially benefit from this special set-aside.
Advocacy Partnering: 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.
Congressional Communications One of the milestone events of 2005 was the confirmation of a new Archivist of the United States, Allen Weinstein. Prior to the archivist’s confirmation on 10 February, the history coalition played an important role in raising public and professional concerns about the White House’s “premature” removal of John Carlin as archivist. Once professor Weinstein’s named was officially advanced to Congress by the White House, history coalition staff coordinated visits between member organization representatives and Senate committee staff. We also played an important behind-the-scenes role in assisting the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in preparing for Weinstein’s confirmation hearing. Unfortunately, our proposal for Congress to hold general oversight hearings on NARA (it would have been the first in a decade) was not embraced by the Committee. But perhaps of greater importance, the coalition facilitated the initial off-the-record meetings between Weinstein and representatives of the history and archives community. These meetings helped enable member organizations to assess the candidate’s qualifications and stake out a position relating to his suitability to serve as archivist. These meetings also served as the catalyst for an ongoing relationship between the archivist and important NARA partnering history and archives organizations.
Freedom of Information Authorizing Legislation and Public Access Declassification Board: 2005 was a landmark year for the introduction of legislation relating to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Congress held two oversight hearings and five FOIA related bills were introduced. The NCH assisted congressional committee staff in preparing questions for witnesses for one of these hearings and submitted a detailed four-page section by section analysis in our written testimony for the proposed “Open Government Act” (S. 394/H.R. 867); we also provided comments at the drafting phase on the “Faster FOIA” (S.589) proposal. By virtual of the NCH’s partnership and membership in various coalitions, the organization went on record supporting several other FOIA related measures including the “Restore FOIA” bill (S. 622). Finally, staff provided assistance to congressional committee staff on a House hearing on “overclassification” held on 2 March.
On a related matter, the Public Access Declassification Board that was re-authorized in 2004 was brought closer to a reality when the White House appointed its first members to the board, though the administration declined to provide any funding for the entity. The history coalition continued its advocacy activities at the agency and Congressional level for the establishment of the PADB.
Milestone Year for History Education Authorizing Legislation: Congress also addressed a number of legislative issues relating to history education. Completing a legislative initiative supported by the history coalition that was authorized last year, Senator Lamar Alexander’s Presidential and Congressional academies began to be implemented when the Department of Education issued a “request for proposals.”
Several bills were introduced in this first session of the 109th Congress, including a re-authorization of the Higher Education Act (S. 609). This bill will likely serve as the vehicle for enactment of Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ted Kennedy’s (D-MA) “American History for Freedom” act (S. 1614 / H.R. 2858); this legislation is the first bill in recent years to provide funding for American history education at the post-secondary school level.
Following this years most important history related Congressional hearing – “U.S. History: Our Worst Subject” – that was held on 29 June, the history coalition submitted testimony for the record on the legislation that emerged out of this hearing – the “American History Achievement Act” (S. 860). While Congress is clearly interested in advancing the teaching of “traditional” American History, the history coalition continues to strongly advocate and communicate to members of Congress the need for funding and greater emphasis on world and comparative history. One small victory was recorded this year, when NEH Chair Bruce Cole delivered his “Humanities and Its Public” address on 5 May to the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). In this speech Cole announced that in addition to NEH support for the “We the People” American history initiative, there would be overt emphasis within the NEH on funding projects relating to non-American history and cultures of other nations.
Legislative and Policy Interventions on Behalf of the National Parks and Historic Sites: While the history coalition was able to support most of the education related bills and initiatives the same cannot be said for national park bills. While the NCH was able to support 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 – in general the coalition’s efforts were directed at opposing offensive legislation and departmental initiatives. For example, a proposal advanced in a budget reconciliation bill by House Resources Committee Chair Richard Pombo (R-CA) proposed to shut down 14 small national park historic sites. The suggestion was vigorously opposed by the history coalition; through stories in the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE, through numerous press comments given to national media on the proposal, and through actions by member organizations we helped facilitate a nationwide protest of the Congressman’s proposal; ultimately the Congressman retreated from his proposed action.
In early summer, when the National Park Service instituted a controversial reorganization of its Cultural Resource Division the history coalition again intervened by communicating our concerns to Congressional committee staff; we also met with NPS officials and posed serious questions in writing about the wisdom of aspects of the reorganization. In December 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. Finally, staff coordinated an effort on behalf of the NCH and several of its history member organizations to meet with NPS officials to discuss the NPS Chief Historian position vacancy that came open following the retirement of veteran Chief Historian, Dwight Pitcaithley. The coalition 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 50 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 are: the “Artists Contribution to American Heritage Act” (S. 372 and similar version of the “Artists Museum Partnership Act” — H.R. 1120 / S.372), which seeks to provide tax incentives for artists, scholars and writers to donate their work to non-profit entities – the bill has recently been attached to the CARE Act (H.R. 7 / S. 476); Presidential Sites Improvement Bill (S. 431 / H.R. 927); and the Patriot Act amendments – i.e. the “Freedom to Read Protection Act” (H.R. 1157) – in this effort the history coalition is generally supportive of amendments advanced by the library community. In addition to the above legislative measures that have been introduced, the history coalition is working with the “Taking Care of Our Heritage Coalition” (a coalition that encompasses several history coalition member groups) they seeks to advance legislation that would authorize a state formula grants program for museums and archives.
2005 was the first year in which the history coalition and its two partners – the National Humanities Alliance and the Federation of State Humanities Councils – purchased and began to make use of the CAP WIZ program as a tool for legislative advocacy. Due to time and staffing constraints this powerful grassroots tool was underutilized by the history coalition and its member organizations. Hopefully next year the tool can be used more effectively.
In summary, the first session of the 109th Congress has not been stellar in terms of enacting much legislation of interest to our community. Congress did extend the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (P.L. 109-05), established the Sand Creek Massacre site as a national park unit (P.L. 109-45), authorized the creation of a statue of Rosa Parks for placement in the capitol (P.L. 109-116), and authorized a national park suitability/feasibility study to assess whether the landscape associated with the Civil War Battle of Franklin warrants national park status (P.L. 109- 120). We can only hope that the second session of the 109th Congress will be more productive in enacting history/archives related measures.
II. NCH INITIATIVES AND AGENCY POLICY MATTERS ADDRESSED
Lost/Stolen/Missing Documents and Replevin Initiative: Since 2003 the NCH has informally monitored various on-line auction sites for lost, stolen, or missing artifacts and manuscript materials. Last year the NCH actively worked to see legislation enacted (P.L.108-383) that would enable NARA to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the NCH in order to make a discretionary grant to have the NCH systematically monitor up to 100 internet auction sites for such materials. That proposal was approved by NARA in December 2004 and this year the history coalition received a $20,000 grant by NARA. In late 2005 we launched a program of systematic monitoring of auction sites.
A contractor has been hired to monitor these sites for lost, stolen and missing documents from federal, state, and international repositories. At this writing nearly two dozen sites have been examined and over 125 documents have been referred to NARA for further assessment. In addition, several documents likely originating from state archives (Texas, Arkansas, and West Virginia) as well as documents originating from Russian Federation, Bolivia, and Peru and have been referred to appropriate state and federal officials for action.
During the 2005 annual meeting of the American Historical Association, the NCH coordinated a presidential session entitled, “Stolen Public Records: Challenges in Archival Theft, Institutional Acquisition, and Reacquisition.” The executive director was interviewed for a National Public Radio (NPR) nationally broadcast radio program entitled “Hidden Treasures” that focused on stolen and NARA missing documents. Through the pages of the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE a concerted effort was made to raise reader awareness of the issue by increasing the number of stories focusing on stolen and mishandled documents.
This next year we anticipate expanding this initiative and will continue to work with NARA, the Advisory Board on the Records of Congress, and several member organizations (i.e. The Manuscript Society) on various replevin related program activities.
National History Center and Congressional Breakfast Seminars: Last year the history coalition’s executive director became a member of the planning committee of the National History Center; this year monthly meetings continued. Several 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. The NCH raised $10,000 for this effort and this year, in partnership with the National History Center, the coalition supported the first three Congressional Breakfast Seminars. These sessions focused on Congressional reform, Social Security, and “No Child Left Behind.”
Human Subjects Review and Oral History: For several years the NCH has supported the activities of 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 NCH continued working with agency and White House officials and the lawsuit plaintiffs to see the legal challenge to its conclusion. On 24 September federal Judge Kollar-Kotelly issued a second ruling (decided in the government’s favor) relating to the lawsuit. Still to be addressed is the final and most important contested issue relating to the constitutionality of certain provisions of the PRA. To this end, briefs were filed in October; a decision on this last remaining (and most important) count of the plaintiffs original filing is 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) and the George Bush Presidential Library began releasing records to the public in accordance with the PRA. The history coalition monitored these releases with a particular eye toward library redactions and reported findings in the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE.
This year 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.” The Executive Director was also engaged to write an article to be published in 2006 on the presidential library system that will be published in a special issue of The Public Historian in 2006. He also assisted the National Park Service on a steering committee in planning the bi-annual conference on presidential sites slotted to take place in June 2006.
Of all the issues relating to presidential libraries, the most challenging one this year involved the Nixon Library and Birthplace. For years, the Nixon foundation has been advancing plans for the private museum to become a full-fledged NARA presidential library. The good news is that this year NARA concluded an agreement that will bring the Nixon library into the NARA presidential library system in 2006 consistent with most provisions of the Presidential Library Act. The bad news is that the federal government will 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. The history coalition expressed concerns to archivist Allen Weinstein and members of Congress about the precedent that would be established if Congress authorized construction funds (rather than private funds) for the archival addition needed to house the Nixon records. But with the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee in strong support of federal funding the FY 2006 NARA funding measure ended up providing monies for construction of an archival repository and for moving a portion of the archives. Our central concern continues to be the continuation of the processing of the Nixon materials to insure that the Nixon papers and records are opened for scholarly purposes in a timely manner.
Finally, for the third year, the history coalition submitted nominations for the Paul Peck Presidential Awards for “Service to the President” and “Portrayal of a President.” For the third year in a row our submissions were not among the selected award winners. Nevertheless, we continue to take advantage of the opportunity to submit the names of outstanding (yet often not widely known or recognized) presidential scholars and editions projects.
Records Declassification: 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) and made periodic reports through the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE. In addition, official comments were prepared and submitted on the decennial review of CIA records, a NARA proposal for the creation of a disposition schedule of electronic versions of records, and through an announcement in the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE member organizations were invited to submit comments on the revision of the NARA Strategic Plan.
House Historian: After several years of meetings, direct and indirect advocacy efforts with Congressional staff, and postings of position vacancy announcements in the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE, on 5 May, the Speaker of the House finally appointed an official House Historian, professor Robert Remini formerly with the University of Illinois at Chicago. For several years Professor Remini has been working on his Congressionally-sanctioned history of the House of Representatives. This year, history coalition staff had several meetings with Remini as well as his deputy historian, Fred Beuttler. We also had meetings with officials and staff based in the House Clerk’s companion Office of History and Preservation.
Unanticipated Issues of Concern: As always, issues emerged that were not anticipated that demanded the attention of history coalition staff and member organizations. Concerns raised by several member organizations over the practice of “flagging” NEH grant applications; allegations were investigated and to the extent possible addressed. At the request of the Archivist of the United States, several introduction meetings and lunches between him and several government and history/archives organizations officials were arranged. Staff devoted time to concerns raised relating to the transfer of records of the 9-11 Commission, addressing requests from partner organizations for assistance in facilitating the sign-on of NCH member organizations onto several amicus briefs. Several earmark appropriation measures came to light as did issues relating to copyright and orphan works, and the Executive Director assisted in the redrafting of the AHA Statement on Peer Review. In addition, some eighty individual requests for assistance from NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE readers and member organizations were addressed.
III. EDUCATION AND OUTREACH Conferences and Presentations: The history coalition’s education and outreach program was as active this year as in any. In addition to the Executive Director’s participation in the Princeton conference on presidential libraries and coordinating and presenting in the presidential session on stolen documents held during the annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA) that are described above, the executive director made presentations during: the National Humanities Alliance’s Lobby Day event (6 April); the annual meeting of the American Council of Learned Societies (7 May); NARA’s 25th Anniversary of the Archives Independence Act (20 May); Society for History in the Federal Government business meeting (17 March); New York University’s Bradamas Center for the Study of Congress’s “Symposium on Presidential and Public Papers” (25 October). Three presentations were made to introductory public history courses at American University (21 April; 8 September) and at the George Washington University (23 March) and talks on history advocacy were made at the University of Missouri and University of Kansas (both on 26 January). The Executive Director participated in the American Historical Association’s special workshop entitled “Competencies and Credentials for Training History Professionals” (“Wingspan Conference”) in which the status of the history Masters Degree was assessed (16-18 May); he also participated and made a presentation on the status of history legislation held during the “History and History Education Policy Conference” held at the Newberry Library in Chicago (6-8 October).
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 total over 1,550 readers (an increase of 250 subscribers over last year) with secondary distribution to 600-plus H-net editors, as well as through a posting on George Mason University’s History News Network webpage. This year a reader survey was conducted to determine exactly how many readers the UPDATE actually has; the findings were inconclusive.
On several occasions the UPDATE was first to report stories of interest to the profession. It played a particularly useful role in reporting news to the profession after the Katrina hurricane and for its investigation of the historian credentials of Supreme Court nominee Judge John Roberts. The UPDATE continues to provide readers with accurate and cutting-edge information on legislation, federal government programs, controversies in the profession as well as other items of interest.
The program that was launched two years ago in which NCH ACTION ALERTS were issued separate from the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE continued. 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 including 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.
Maintain Professional Standing: The Executive Director maintained standing in the history profession by presenting a paper during the AHA annual meeting: “Craig v. USA: The Fine Art of Unsealing Federal Grand Jury Records”; he presented a talk on the Harry Dexter White espionage case as part of the Truman Library’s Institute lecture series (26 January) and taped a radio interview (broadcast the week of 20 June) for the Organization of American Historians’ radio program “Talking History.” During the Executive Director’s six-week teaching residency at the University of Prince Edward Island he taught an undergraduate class on the history of espionage (History 309A), delivered a public lecture entitled “Lives of Lies – Espionage, Treason, and the Making of A Spy” before a capacity audience, and he was interviewed on CBC Radio 1 that was broadcast throughout Atlantic Canada (broadcast date 1 July).
IV. ORGANIZATION BUILDINGMerger Proposal: This year brought a decision to the proposal to merge the National Coalition for History with the National Humanities Alliance. After thoughtful consideration by the boards of both organizations it was decided that a formal merger was not in the best interests of either organization at this time.
Strategic Planning: Following the unsuccessful merger, a strategic planning committee was authorized to begin work on an update to the plan devised in 2001. A board committee representative of the history coalition’s diverse membership was appointed and charged to report to the board in 2006. In addition, a special fundraising committee was authorized and met twice; their findings, recommendations and the results of a member survey were turned over to the strategic planning committee for incorporation into the strategic plan.
\Internships: The history coalition’s student intern program continued with the part-time assistance of two student interns – Giny Cheong (George Mason University) and Nathaniel Kulyk (The American University) who assisted the executive director in the totality of the NCH operations. For a good part of the year the interns prepared the initial drafts of the NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE.
Grant and Other Special Funding: A grant application submitted last year to NARA for the support of a Stolen Documents Monitoring initiative was approved and the first funding claim against the $20,000 cap made. Once again the National Coalition for History made application to and was accepted into the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) for 2006. The coalition will participate in that campaign as a member of the Conservation, Preservation Federation of America (CPCA). During the annual internet solicitation drive the Society for History in the Federal Government sent out a special posting to its members requesting they consider contributing to the NCH through the CFC drive. Funds from the first campaign will be realized in FY 2006.
Audit: In the effort to comply with federal regulations requiring an annual audit, a new independent auditor Jeff Secker of Secker and Associates P.C. was engaged to perform the annual audit. The cost savings over the previous firm that was engaged to perform the audit was over $5,000. Consistent with the management letter issued by the auditor last year, bonding was secured for the organization’s treasurer, board, and staff.
Membership Update: Following last years issuance of invitations to join the history coalition that were sent to over seventy potential institutional supporters and resulted with only modest success, this year targeted recruitment efforts were re-initiated. As a result, several new members joined the history coalition: The National Security Archives (Sustaining Supporter level), National Council for History Education (Sustaining Supporter level); and the National Council for the Social Studies (Institutional Supporter level); membership has been pledged from the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress. Invitations to join the history coalition of which decisions whether to join are still pending include: the Civil War Preservation Trust, Archives of the Diocese of Las Cruses New Mexico, International Academy for Historical Studies, Florida Council for the Social Studies, and the National History Club.
Several member organizations also raised their contribution levels; they include the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, The History Channel, Southern Historical Association, Association of American University Presses, Mid-Atlantic Archives Conference, Center for History and New Media, H-Net History On-line, and Southern Association for Women Historians. Several member organizations did not meet donation targets and either reduced their annual contribution or did not contribute at all this year: National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, Council of State Archivists, The Manuscript Society, and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers.