Guest Post: National Humanities Alliance Annual Meeting and Advocacy Day

Guest Post: Barbara Teague, Executive Director of the Council of State Archivists (CoSA):

In my new position as Executive Director, I joined the Society of American Archivists delegation (Executive Director Nancy Beaumont, Committee on Public Policy chair Dennis Riley, and COPP members Kathleen Roe and Samantha Winn) for the National Humanities Alliance Annual Meeting and Advocacy Day, March 11-13 in Washington DC.  NHA’s Advocacy Day continues to grow, attracting more attendees each year to advocate for several federal programs specifically related to the humanities, including the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), and the Department of Education International Education Programs: Title VI/Fulbright-Hays.

In Sam Winn’s guest post for “Off the Record” last month, she outlined the specifics of the conference and advocacy event – Sunday evening reception; Monday traditional conference presentations, including sessions on advocacy strategies and successful humanities programming; and Tuesday’s visits to Capitol Hill with our state delegation.  She also noted that  CoSA and SAA representatives attended the NHA conference to learn more about the process of this advocacy event, since SAA, CoSA, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA) and the Regional Archival Associations Consortium (RAAC) are planning our own advocacy day, “Archives on the Hill” in conjunction with the Joint Annual Meeting in DC in August.  We did learn a great deal from attending NHA, helping us prepare for our August 14 event. 

NHA’s excellent event worked for four reasons:

Preparation and planning.  Prior to our arrival in DC for the conference and advocacy event, NHA forwarded useful materials, including: 

  • Advocacy Guide: Overview of how to prepare for, conduct, and follow up after meetings on the Hill.
  • Advocacy Training Videos, Preparing for Advocacy Day and Anatomy of a Meeting:  Recap of recent funding trends, an overview of the budget and appropriations process, and an explanation of how to conduct a meeting, and examples of what meetings with the offices of three different Members of Congress might look like.
  • Issue Briefs: Fact sheets on NEH, Title VI/Fulbright Hays, NHPRC, and IMLS.

NHA staff also communicated with attendees in group emails to state delegations, providing us with a schedule for visits to offices of our Senators and Representatives, so attendees knew what their schedule would be for making advocacy visits.  These pre-conference items helped attendees be prepared and to know what to expect.

Organization.  At the conference, attendees were given paper copies of the Advocacy Guide and Issue Briefs, as well as a fact sheet about each member of Congress that the state delegation would visit and their votes on key issues related to NEH, IMLS, NHPRC, or Title VI/Fulbright Hays.  These also noted whether the member belonged to the Senate or House Humanities Caucus, and had other invaluable information, such as committee memberships.  The attention to detail, from the extensive fact sheets about the members, to an appointments list that included information for state delegations visits (time of appointment, member of Congress, staff member and position, and location of office) helped ensure that the advocacy visits ran smoothly.

Action.  NHA provided attendees with several things to request during the Congressional visits.  There were specific budget amounts requested for all the agencies for which we were advocating, a request for the member to sign a “Dear Colleague” letter supporting NEH, and a request that the member join the Humanities Caucus. Having an actionable focus for the visit, rather than just saying that Humanities are good and should be funded helped focus the meetings and provided the staff members with an actionable item after our appointment was over.

Follow-up.  NHA prepared a folder for each delegation to leave behind at the House and Senate offices, including the issue briefs, information about the Humanities Caucuses, and “Dear Colleague” support letters.  Attendees also described their visits to the offices on a debrief form and followed up with emails to thank the staff member and member of Congress for the meeting. 

Archives on the Hill will benefit from our experience at the NHA Conference and Advocacy Day. I’ve been making advocacy visits for about ten years now, and this event did remind me that our advocacy for archives in a coordinated way is just beginning, compared to that in some of our related professions.  NHA has generously agreed to share the Member of Congress fact sheets with us for our use during Archives on the Hill, as well as providing other assistance.  We’re also receiving advice from the Congressional Affairs staff at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) and from the American Library Association Washington Office.  Stay tuned to Tanya’s blog, as well as to CoSA’s website and Twitter, to learn how we apply the lessons learned at the NHA gathering to our first “Archives on the Hill.”

 

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