04 December 2009

NARA threat

I don't normally post on US genealogy matters, there are plenty of US-oriented blogs, but I'm making an exception for the notice copied below. It's from a posting on the APG mailing list by notable US genealogist Claire Bettag, and was brought to my attention by a good friend.

Not being a NARA user I'm not in any position to judge the merits of the concern. However, with national institutions always looking at what's happening with their peer institutions in other countries the phrase that comes to mind is "if we don't hang together, we'll hang separately."


Dear researchers, Proposed renovations at the National Archives will affect all NARA researchers. As you have probably heard, if the changes materialize, some research space at the downtown facility will be converted to offices, exhibits, and other uses, and research services will have to be reconfigured. To assure that research resources are enhanced, rather than diminished, we again appeal—urgently--for your help.

Several notices have circulated about an extremely important congressional subcommittee hearing later this month. The hearing of the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, which oversees NARA, will examine the National Archives mission. The proposed changes at Archives-1 will be discussed. The new Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, will testify. This is our opportunity to voice concerns and priorities to congressional leaders. Please participate by 1) writing to the members of the subcommittee (details below); and 2) attending the hearing if you are in the Washington DC area (details below).

1. CONTACT SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBERS: It is critical that we contact every member of the subcommittee in advance, to 1) encourage them to attend and participate in the meeting, 2) to express our concerns, and 3) to urge them to make researcher services a priority. Please take time now to send each of them a note. It is especially important for constituents of the subcommittee members to contact those members.
(See below for list of subcommittee members, and suggestions for writing.)

2. ATTEND THE HEARING: If you are in the Washington DC area on 16 December, please attend the hearing. Members of Congress take careful note of attendance at such hearings. A well-attended meeting will communicate that researchers care about what happens at NARA.Wednesday, 16 December 2009; 2 p.m. Rayburn House Office Building, room 2154 ALSO, if you are in the DC area, a public meeting will be held the following day, 17 December 2009, at 1:00 p.m. at NARA specifically to discuss the proposed changes. If you can make that meeting also, please put it on your calendar.

SUGGESTIONS FOR WRITING TO SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBERS: Keep your message to one page. At the TOP of thee message, identify your reason for writing. For example: “Re: Information Policy Subcommittee Hearing on National Archives, December 16.” If at all possible, write an individualized letter (you can cite some issues below, or add others; a sample letter appears below). Contact each member only once about the hearing. Be succinct. Readers should be able to read and understood the message in one minute. Specify your request in the first or second sentence. In another two or three sentences explain how important it is for the member to attend and participate in the hearing. Specify if you are writing as an individual or representing a group.

Issues you may wish to address (among others you might include): Renovations at Archives-1 (downtown) should aim to make it a world-class research facility. Reconsider decisions already made (on the Constitution side of the building) so the result will optimally serve the public and researchers without compromising the latter. Upgrade services, personnel, hardware, and software to bring the research facility in line with other first-rate research facilities in the world.

How to contact subcommittee members: If you live in a member’s district, use the “Write your Representative” site, which provides direct email contact for constituents. Users enter a state +zip code. Use this link: http://www.house.gov/writerep/ To contact other members, use email if an address appears below (many do not provide email addresses for non-constituents). Otherwise FAX letters. Do not use USPS mail as postal delivery to congressional offices takes very long. (See below.) If you represent an organization, follow up with a reminder fax the morning of December 15.


Clay, William Lacy D MO, 1st D. Chairman Phone: (202) 225-2406 Fax: (202) 226-3717 Kanjorski, Paul D PA, 11th D. phone: 202-225-6511 fax (202) 225-0764
Maloney, Carolyn D NY, 14th D. http://tinyurl.com/yzfttfn fax: 202-225-4709
Norton, Eleanor Holmes D DC phone: (202) 225-8050 fax: (202) 225-3002
Davis, Danny D Chicago, 7D. http://tinyurl.com/yzs8gl6 fax (202) 225-5641
Driehaus, Steve D OH, 1st D. http://tinyurl.com/yz637fg Fax: (202) 225-3012
Watson, Diane D CA, 33rd D. phone: 202-225-7084, fax: 202-225-2422
Cuellar, Henry D TX, 28th D. phone: 202-225-1640 fax: 202-225-1641
McHenry, Patrick R NC, 10th D Ranking minority phone: 202.225.2576 Fax: 202.225.0316 Westmoreland, Lynn R GA, 3rd D. Vice Ranking minority Phone (202) 225-5901 Fax (202) 225-2515
Mica, John R FL, 7th D. http://tinyurl.com/y9bxwuf Fax: (202) 226-0821
Chaffetz, Jason R UT, 3rd D. Phone: (202) 225-7751 Fax: (202) 225-5629

Date Addressee / address Re: Information Policy Subcommittee Hearing on National Archives, December 16
Dear ______: The proposed renovation at the National Archives (Washington, DC facility) is a major concern for all researchers. As [a frequent researcher at NARA, a representative of…] I hope the work being considered will result in upgraded, enhanced research facilities that make it a world-class research facility.

Many of us are worried that some changes appear to aggrandize exhibits, the gift shop, and other tourist attractions in the building at the expense of resources serving researchers.

First and foremost, the public documents preserved at NARA should be made accessible to scholars, historians, educators, journalists, artists, family historians, scientists, and other researchers—via up-to-date technology, facilities, and expert archival assistance.

In your oversight role, please assure that this is the top priority as renovations proceed.

I hope you will be at the subcommittee meeting and take an active role in the proceedings. [I plan to attend the hearing.] Congressional oversight and support for research services is critical if NARA is to remain a renowned research institution, fulfilling its mission to the American public, and in line with similar facilities in other countries.

Thank you, in advance, for your support. If you wish additional information, please feel free to contact me. Sincerely, NAME / AFFILIATION (IF ANY)



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