The “Archives on the Hill” initiative, sponsored by SAA-CoSA-NAGARA-RAAC, is fast approaching and scheduled for August 14th as part of this year’s annual meeting in Washington, DC. For some background and context, please see previous posts by CoSA Executive Director Barbara Teague and Committee on Public Policy member Samantha Winn, or this recent article in the May/June issue Archival Outlook by yours truly.
To keep this advocacy event manageable, the coordinating committee, consisting of representatives from each organization, focused on our specific members whose Congressional representatives sit on the important House and Senate committees that handle appropriations and oversight of the National Archives and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). While logistical planning for the Archives on the Hill effort is still underway, 63 of our members are committed to meeting with 47 Members of Congress (most likely their staff given it will be the August recess). By limiting this event to a targeted group of archivists and Congressional representatives, we hoped not to overwhelm the coordinating committee (all volunteers, some of whom have day jobs) nor SAA staff and interns who have their hands full with the rest of the annual meeting (without adding yet another event).
The objectives of this initiative are twofold:
- To broaden the advocacy experience and expertise of our members; and
- To begin developing relationships with Members of Congress
Both objectives serve the longer-range objective of increasing SAA’s legislative and public policy advocacy work, in line with our strategic plan.
The principle “ask” of these meetings will be to ensure Congress maintains adequate funding for archival projects through the NHPRC, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Ancillary messages which will be part of our approach include explaining the challenges and importance of electronic records preservation; and advocating for the reauthorization of both NHPRC and IMLS as federal entities.
Pragmatically speaking, given the upcoming mid-term elections and other issues Congress will be dealing with in the coming months (pick your favorite federal acronym: SCOTUS, ICE, EPA, etc.) I think it’s fair to say archives funding will not be at the top of any Congressional agenda. However, if we don’t speak up on these issues, no one else is going to do it for us. The hope is that this is but a first step in an ongoing effort throughout the next year and beyond to implement SAA’s Public Policy Agenda in very concrete, active ways – to engage Congress on the importance of archives to our society and the communities Members represent, whether it’s funding or copyright, government transparency and accountability, or advancing the diversity of the archival record and documenting marginalized voices.
Be sure to keep an eye out in SAA communication streams for a readout on the August event and how you can pitch in by advocating with your Member of Congress.