Guest post by Samantha Winn (Virginia Tech), member of SAA’s Committee on Public Policy (COPP):
In 2018, the Society of American Archivists (SAA), Council of State Archivists (CoSA), and National Association of Government Archives & Records Administrators (NAGARA) will meet together in Washington, DC. This gathering represents a unique advocacy opportunity for archives and records workers. To learn more about advocating for archives on Capitol Hill, the Committee on Public Policy sent a small cohort to the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day from March 11-13. Cohort members included SAA Executive Director Nancy Beaumont, CoSA Executive Director Barbara Teague, COPP chair Dennis Riley, and COPP members Kathleen Roe and Samantha Winn.
The Annual Meeting combined a traditional conference program with advocacy training sessions, briefings on the Congressional appropriations process, and strategy meetings. In anticipation of Humanities Advocacy Day (March 13), NHA staff sorted participants into state-based delegations, scheduled meetings on Capitol Hill with the appropriate representatives, and prepared folders of informational documents to leave with each Congressional office. The NHA prepared an extensive advocacy guide and training video for attendees to review ahead of time.
Delegation members received detailed profiles of each legislator and briefing documents on legislative priorities identified by the NHA. The NHA asked participants to speak on behalf of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and international education programs under HEA-Title VI and Fulbright-Hays. To demonstrate the value of public funding for the humanities, participants were encouraged to share anecdotes from their own work and projects happening in each Congressional district. NHA staff also coordinated social media campaigns under #NEHforAll and #HAD18 to promote the campaign and publicly thank supportive legislators.
Hill visits took place from 9:00am to 5:00pm on March 13. SAA cohort members travelled with their state delegations to a series of meetings across the Capitol Complex, both on foot and via the Capitol’s exclusive subway system. Attendees recorded the highlights and outcomes of each meeting in a debrief worksheet which was collected by NHA staff at various way stations. NHA staff distributed sample communications for advocates to share with their respective legislators after each visit. Ultimately, the campaign was a great success. Although the Trump administration had proposed the elimination of the NEH, the National Endowment for the Arts, and IMLS, humanities advocates prevailed. Thanks in part to the NHA’s exceptional advocacy campaign, Congress ultimately voted to increase FY 2018 funding for NEH by $3 million and raise IMLS funding by $9 million. The bill also maintained FY 2017 levels of funding for the NHPRC.
COPP looks forward to bringing some of these strategies to SAA 2018. Stay tuned for more information!