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News of the Profession

“News of the Profession” includes announcements of special interest to American historians and practitioners at all levels. Please submit your announcement using this form.

UC San Diego Digitizes Materials on Birth of Nuclear Age

The papers of physicist and inventor Leo Szilard chronicling the birth of the nuclear age and the work of the Manhattan Project will soon be digitized by the UC San Diego Library. Szilard played an essential role in the development of the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project, yet he was also a passionate advocate for global arms control and argued for using the bomb as a deterrent—not as a force for destruction. The Library will digitize Szilard's materials, which extend from 1938 to 1998, thanks to a $93,000 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). Principal Investigator for the digitization project, which is expected to take approximately two years to complete, is Brian E. C. Schottlaender, the Audrey Geisel University Librarian at UC San Diego. The project will be administered by Lynda Claassen, director of the Library's Mandeville Special Collections, which houses the Szilard papers.

Project details and updates will be posted on the Mandeville Special Collections blog: http://ucsdspecialcollections.tumblr.com/search/szilard

Posted: February 17, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession

House Passes Major Presidential Records Reform

National Coalition for HistoryFebruary 1, 2014. Inscribed at the entrance to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library is this declaration by Truman: "The papers of the Presidents are among the most valuable sources of material for history. They ought to be preserved and they ought to be used." Since those words were spoken many years ago, experience has taught historians that President Truman should have added "and the government should make them accessible to the public as soon as possible."

For more than a decade, the National Coalition for History has been a lead advocate for Presidential Records Act (PRA) reform. The Organization of American Historians joined along with the American Historical Association as plaintiff, along with other historical and archival groups, in a federal lawsuit that sought to invalidate Executive Order (EO) 13233, issued by President George W. Bush, which severely limited public access to presidential records.

On January 21, 2009, in one of his first official acts, President Barack Obama replaced Bush's executive order with his own, EO 13489. Obama's EO is similar to one issued by President Reagan in 1989, which was also in effect during the presidencies of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, but was superseded by President Bush's EO 13233 in November 2001.

After the Watergate-era battles over President Nixon's papers, which pitted the judicial and legislative branches against the president, it became obvious that a law was needed to prevent similar constitutional conflicts. In 1978, Congress passed the Presidential Records Act (PRA), in an attempt to clarify legal issues surrounding presidential records preservation and maintenance.

The PRA governs the official records of presidents and vice presidents created after January 20, 1981. The PRA changed the legal ownership of the official records of a president from private to public, and established a new statutory structure under which presidents must manage their records. The PRA also defined what qualified as a presidential record, detailed guidelines for the management and custody of presidential records, established procedures for restricting access to presidential records under certain circumstances, and granted the archivist of the United States the authority to promulgate regulations enforcing the PRA.

What has proved to be the most vexing part of the PRA for historians, archivists, political scientists, journalists, and authors is the process established by the statute for restricting access to these records. Specifically, the PRA allows for public access to presidential records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) beginning five years after the end of the administration, but allows the president to invoke as many as six specific restrictions to public access for up to 12 years. The PRA also establishes procedures for Congress, courts, and subsequent administrations to obtain special access to records that remain closed to the public, following a thirty day notice period to the president involved.

The PRA did not, however, provide a procedure allowing former presidents to request continued restricted access to presidential records created during their respective administrations beyond 12 years. This flaw in the statute in effect leaves it up to each sitting president to interpret the law and impose restrictions as he or she sees fit through the issuance of executive orders. As noted above, several presidents since the passage of the PRA have issued EOs to change the request procedure and define the limits of such requests. This includes abuses such as George W. Bush's attempt to broaden the authority of those able to make a privilege claim and potentially restrict public access indefinitely beyond the 12-year period in the law. The Bush EO for the first time gave the heirs or a representative of a former president authority to withhold presidential records or delay their release indefinitely.

President Obama's EO revoked the onerous restrictions placed by Bush 43 and restored the standards established by President Reagan. However, without the passage of legislation, there is nothing to prevent a future chief executive from reinstituting burdensome restrictions on access or extending the privilege beyond that of the incumbent and former president, as President Bush did.

To address this issue, the House of Representatives has passed, on a vote of 420–0, the Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendment of 2014 (HR1233), creating a framework that would enable former presidents to request continued restricted access only on a very narrow basis, in essence codifying the Reagan and Obama administration rules.

The bill, passed on January 14, imposes a time limit within which a former president may assert a claim of privilege. It also establishes processes for managing the disclosure of records upon the assertion of privilege by a former president, and grants to the incumbent president the power to decide whether or not to uphold any privilege claim of a former president, absent a court order to the contrary.

The bill also requires federal employees who create or send a federal or presidential record from a nonofficial electronic messaging account to forward a complete copy of the record to an official electronic messaging account within five days. In cases of intentional violation of this disclosure requirement, the section authorizes disciplinary action as determined by the appropriate supervisor.

While the House vote is good news, two similar bills were overwhelmingly passed in the 110th and 111th Congresses only to die in the Senate. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGA) cleared PRA reform bills in the past, only to have holds placed on them by various Republican senators, most notably Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), that prevented consideration on the Senate floor.

Thus far this session, a Senate version has not yet been introduced. NCH has reached out to several senators, urging them to introduce a companion bill and bring it before the HSGA for consideration. Unfortunately, it remains to be seen, even if such a bill is introduced and marked up in committee, whether Senator Sessions will once again single-handedly stymie this much-needed reform.

Lee White is the executive director of the National Coalition for History. Sign up to receive the National Coalition for History (NCH) Washington Update,  a weekly electronic newsletter that provides information on legislation, hearings, markups, and regulatory issues of concern to historians, archivists, and other stakeholders. 

Posted: February 10, 2014
Tagged: Advocacy, News of the Profession

Support for History in the Fiscal Year 2014 Funding Bill

National Coalition for HistoryFebruary 1, 2014. 
President Barack Obama has signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (Public Law 113–76), which will fund the federal government through the rest of fiscal year (FY) 2014. The table below, prepared by the National Coalition for History, provides the budgets of all major federal agency programs affecting history, archives, and education.


FY 2013

President’s Request

FY 2014

Difference 2013 to 2014

Institute of Museum and Library Services

$ 219.8

$ 225.8

$ 226.8


Library Programs





Museum Programs





International Education and Foreign Language Studies





Title VI-A&B (Domestic Programs)





Fulbright-Hays (Overseas Programs)





Library of Congress





National Archives & Records Administration





National Historical Publications & Records Commission





National Endowment for the Humanities 





National Park Service





Historic Preservation Programs





National Recreation and Preservation*





Smithsonian Institution





Salaries & Expenses





Facilities Capital





Wilson Center for International Scholars





Prepared by the National Coalition for History. Amounts are in millions of dollars. FY 2013 amounts reflect 5% mandatory sequester cuts. *Includes $18.3M in FY 2014 for Heritage Partnership Programs.

Lee White is the executive director of the National Coalition for History. Sign up to receive the National Coalition for History (NCH) Washington Update,  a weekly electronic newsletter that provides information on legislation, hearings, markups, and regulatory issues of concern to historians, archivists, and other stakeholders. 

Posted: February 10, 2014
Tagged: Advocacy, News of the Profession

University of Georgia Press announces New Editor

The University of Georgia Press announces James C. Giesen, Mississippi State University (MSU), as the new series editor for Environmental History and the American South (EHAS). Giesen will be replacing Paul S. Sutter, University of Colorado, Boulder, effective February 1, 2014. Read more >

Posted: January 30, 2014
Tagged: News of the Profession

Solicitation of Interest for the Editorship of The New England Quarterly

The New England Quarterly Inc., the administrative governing board of The New England Quarterly (NEQ), invites inquiries from individuals interested in editing, and colleges, universities, or cultural organizations interested in hosting the journal as of 1 July 2015. The directors of NEQ Inc. will consider any viable arrangement that advances the mission of the journal to publish the best that is being written about New England literature, history, and culture and their relation to the United States and the world. Interested individuals should address their preliminary inquiries to the NEQ Transition Team, c/o Sarah Hudson, The New England Quarterly, 249 Meserve Hall, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, or at neq@neu.edu, no later than February 1, 2014. For more information, visit NEQ's Web site.

Posted: December 9, 2013
Tagged: News of the Profession

Release of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1977—1980, Volume II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs

The Department of State released Foreign Relations of the United States, 1977—1980, Volume II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.This volume is part of a Foreign Relations subseries that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the administration of Jimmy Carter. It illustrates the Carter administration’s efforts to define and implement a broad-based human rights policy, including the establishment of the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs within the Department of State, the creation of human rights coordinating and review groups, issuance of a Presidential Directive on human rights, institutionalization and standardization of human rights reporting, and pursuit of human rights within the United Nations and other multilateral venues. The volume also documents steps undertaken by the Carter administration to fight hunger, launch a global health initiative, and advocate for women’s rights. This volume was compiled and edited by Kristin L. Ahlberg.

More information is available at: http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1977-80v02

Posted: September 3, 2013
Tagged: News of the Profession

House Passes K-12 Education Reform Bill

September 1, 2013. The House recently passed an Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill (a.k.a., No Child Left Behind). The bill, HR 5, eliminates 70 existing federal programs including the Teaching American History (TAH) grants program at the Department of Education. Even though Congress has not funded TAH since fiscal 2011, the House's action goes further by revoking authorization for the program. The Senate version does not include such a provision. HR 5 passed the House by a slim margin of 221–207, with 12 Republicans joining all 195 Democrats in opposing the bill. The Obama administration has already made it clear the President would veto the bill and it has no chance of passing the Senate. The Senate version of the ESEA bill, S. 1094, is not expected to come to the floor until sometime this fall. It would create a competitive "well-rounded education" grant fund aimed at low-income districts and would provide funding for history arts, music, civics, economics, health and physical education, foreign languages, and other subjects. However, there would be no guaranteed funding stream, and history would be competing with the other subjects for money. --Lee White, National Coalition for History

Posted: September 1, 2013
Tagged: News of the Profession, Advocacy

Fiscal Year 2014 Federal Funding

September 1, 2013. July is traditionally the time of year when the House and Senate get serious (I use that term loosely) about passing appropriations bills in anticipation of the end of the current fiscal year on September 30. As this issue was going to press, Congress was heading out for its annual August recess, and nothing motivates congressional action more than a long summer vacation.

Of course as we all know this legislative frenzy almost never results in Congress actually passing a budget by that deadline. However, both houses pass these fiscal year 2014 bills knowing that they will likely set the parameters for the ultimate budget deal that will be reached at the end of this year (or early next).

Once again the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) at the National Archives faced elimination in the House. However, after zeroing out NHPRC's budget at the subcommittee level, the full House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment offered by Representative David Price (D-NC) to restore $3 million in funding. This came with the full support of the Republican majority.

In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee actually increased the NHPRC's funding from the current year's post-sequester reduction level of $4.75 million to $5 million. The coalition worked with the AHA and our membership groups to lobby appropriators hard for that number and it paid off. In the past, House conferees have acceded to the Senate number. So, optimistically, it looks as though the NHPRC will emerge with level funding for fiscal year 2014, which in the current budget environment is a major accomplishment.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the National Endowment for the Humanities. The House Appropriations Committee has adopted a fiscal 2014 Interior and Environment bill that would slash NEH's funding by 49 percent ($71 million) from the current year's level of $146 million. The Smithsonian Institution is funded at $660 million in the bill, a cut of $155 million (19 percent) below fiscal 2013. In addition, funding for the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars would be eliminated under the bill. While a comparable bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate, this kind of scorched-earth approach towards the NEH in the House is indicative of the difficulties we face in securing humanities- and history-related funding across the board.

We've provided a chart on the NCH website showing the status of funding for history, archival, education, and other programs of interest to our community and updated as new figures become available. -- Lee White, National Coalition for History

Posted: September 1, 2013
Tagged: News of the Profession, Advocacy

Oppose Cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities

A Note from OAH President Alan M. Kraut

Shortly before departing Washington for its summer recess the US House of Representatives took action that constitutes a crisis for American historians and all of our colleagues in the humanities. The House completely eliminated funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Even if a joint Senate-House compromise restores NEH to the budget, its funding--as well as that for the Smithsonian Institution and other federal agencies supporting the humanities--remains in danger of being slashed.

Now, as it has in the past, the Organization of American Historians vigorously opposes such irresponsible cuts.

The NEH nourishes the research and teaching skills of humanists and brings the richness of the humanities to a broader public through innovative and exciting programs. If current efforts are successful, historians and other humanists will suffer insufficient support for their studies, but the general public will feel the deprivation no less acutely. How many museum exhibits would not be mounted? How many documentary films would go unproduced? How many educational Web sites and innovative teaching curricula in the humanities essential to high school, community college, and university instruction would go unwritten or undistributed because of the proposed drastic cuts?

The humanities shape the moral and intellectual values of the young, strengthen global awareness necessary to economic success, ensure cross-cultural understanding required to keep our nation safe, and nurture an optimism about the human condition that can inspire all of us to be better human beings. The humanities are essential to our national well-being and members of the OAH share in the responsibility for preserving federal funding of the humanities.

The OAH needs your help. Please take a moment out of your August schedule to contact your U.S. Representative and Senator and register your support for fully funding the National Endowment for the Humanities and renewing the funding of other federal agencies that support the humanities.

Take action now!

Posted: August 29, 2013
Tagged: News of the Profession, Advocacy

Founding Fathers: Coming to a Web Site Near You

Thomas Jefferson heard that his one-time antagonist and White House predecessor had not been well, so the seventy-one-year-old sage of Monticello wrote to the seventy-eight-year-old John Adams on July 5, 1814: "Our machines have now been running for 70 or 80 years, and we must expect that, worn as they are, here a pivot, there a wheel, now a pinion, next a spring, will be giving way: and however we may tinker them up for awhile, all will at length surcease motion." Read more >

Posted: August 1, 2013
Tagged: From the Archivist of the US, News of the Profession

Advocacy Alert: Oppose Funding Cuts to the NEH

July 24, 2013. The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee released its FY 2014 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill that includes a 49 percent—or $71 million—cut in funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The Organization of American Historians urges you to contact your representative TODAY and have them oppose these reductions in NEH's funding. If enacted, this funding level would devastate an agency that has already been reduced by nearly 20 percent since 2010.

The proposed cuts would end vital NEH programs that provide critical support for humanities teaching, preservation, public programming, and research, and would have a devastating impact on nearly every community in the country.

The current Appropriations Bill also proposes a 19 percent reduction — or $155 million — for the Smithsonian Institution, and will completely eliminate funding for the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.

Please contact your Representative today and urge them to vote against these funding cuts. We have made it easy to send a letter to your Representative. Simply follow this link to have your voice heard or call your member of Congress by dialing the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Thank you for taking action on this important matter!

Posted: July 24, 2013
Tagged: News of the Profession, Advocacy

Volunteers at NARA Provide Support for Historians and Archivists

One of the things that has most impressed me since I came to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) three years ago is the work of our corps of dedicated, knowledgeable volunteers. What they do for us, and for the American people, is amazing. They write hundreds of item-level descriptions, annotate thousands of photo captions, and assist with digitization projects so that the past recorded on paper is not left behind in the digital era. Volunteers index tens of thousands of records; answer researchers’ questions; write articles about the records for our magazine, Prologue, and create our blogs; and present lectures to the public. Read more >

Posted: May 13, 2013
Tagged: From the Archivist of the US, News of the Profession, Advocacy

NARA Opens George W. Bush Presidential Library

This spring, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) opened its thirteenth presidential library—the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum—on the campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas. The library and museum for the forty-third president differs from the other twelve in several ways, including that its holdings chronicle one of the most important periods in recent U.S. history—a time when America entered into a war against terrorists. Read more >

Posted: May 13, 2013
Tagged: From the Archivist of the US, News of the Profession

George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

In preparation for its opening in the spring of 2013, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum launched its social media efforts this month on Twitter and Facebook. Information on construction milestones, library features, exhibits, opening dates, and hours of operation is available via @GWBLibrary and Facebook.com/GWBLibrary. The Bush Library and Museum is the thirteenth US Presidential Library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Posted: February 18, 2013
Tagged: News of the Profession

Resources for Volunteer Programs in Archives

The National Archives, in partnership with the Society of American Archivists, announces the launch of Resources for Volunteer Programs in Archives (RVPA), a free online resource that lists dozens of ongoing volunteer activities at archival facilities nationwide. RVPA also provides guidance for archival institutions that plan to revamp or launch brand-new volunteer programs. It includes volunteer management tools such as sample applications, handbooks, emergency contact forms, and job descriptions.

Posted: November 19, 2012
Tagged: News of the Profession

Office of the Historian releases FRUS, 1969-1976

The Department of State released Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969—1976, Volume XLI, Western Europe; NATO, 1969—1972. This volume is part of a subseries of volumes of the Foreign Relations series that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the administrations of Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. This specific volume documents U.S. regional and bilateral relations with Western Europe from January 20, 1969 to January 20, 1973. The documentation printed in this volume highlights U.S. policy regarding European economic and political integration, U.S. participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as U.S. bilateral relations with Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Posted: November 19, 2012
Tagged: News of the Profession

Activism, Unity, and the Georgia State Archives

Jamil S. Zainaldin, president of the Georgia Humanities Council and secretary of the Friends of Georgia Archives and History, takes us behind the scenes at the controversy surrounding the Georgia State Archives. His article is excerpted from the November, 2012 issue of OAH Outlook.

Posted: November 12, 2012
Tagged: News of the Profession

NARA Assumes Expanded Role in Federal Records Management

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is about to experience a sea change in the way it oversees the management and preservation of government records. This change is a result of a directive from me and the acting head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This is our response to the president’s mandate to reform records management for the twenty-first century as delivered in his Memorandum on Records Management. In it, the president outlines his goal to require departments and agencies to manage all of their permanently valuable records in electronic form by the end of the decade to ensure transparency, efficiency, and accountability in government. Read more >

Posted: October 29, 2012
Tagged: From the Archivist of the US, News of the Profession

Stanford History Education Group Launches
History Assessment Resource

The Stanford History Education Group is pleased to announce the launch of "Beyond the Bubble," a new Web site that uses the digital archive of the Library of Congress to create a new generation of History Assessments of Thinking (HAT). Each HAT focuses on the ability to interpret original sources and requires students to use knowledge in action rather than asking them to recall discrete names and dates. HATs have been extensively field-tested and come with interactive rubrics and examples of student work.

Posted: October 18, 2012
Tagged: News of the Profession

US Department of Interior Announces New Historic Landmarks

In October 2012, US Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar announced the designation of 26 national historic landmarks and one national natural landmark as places that possess exceptional value and quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Currently there are only 2,527 designated national historic landmarks and 592 national natural landmark sites across the country that bear this national distinction.

Posted: October 18, 2012
Tagged: News of the Profession