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“Preserving DC’s Historical Record” Notes by Mary Rowse With additions by Trudy Peterson, Alice Stewart & Mathew Gilmore Trudy Peterson, former Archivist of the United States and Capital Hill resident, moderated an excellent discussion on the future of DC’s historical record on Saturday, November 5 at the DC Historical Studies Conference at the Martin Luther King Library. Discussion focused on: (1) four institutions that collect local DC historical records; (2) the need for a City Records Management Office because all of the city’s agencies are understaffed and unable to maintain their own records; (3) the need for an overarching approach to the city’s public and private documentary heritage—a WPA-like survey of schools, DC Government agencies and international associations in order to plan for their records’ protection; and (4) the fact that there is no electronic survey of records city-wide. Peterson said that a working group would try to figure out a strategic approach to conducting the survey and publicizing the next steps. There was a request from Karen Blackman-Mills, Director of the Washingtoniana Division of the DC Public Library, that all archival organizations support each other in saving historical records. Peterson started the discussion by saying that every city has to have two kinds of institutions to protect its documentary heritage: one focusing on the public record created by public institutions, the other on the private record created by businesses, groups, and individuals. In DC, for historical reasons, we have two of each: for the Public Record, it’s the DC Archives and the Board of Education archives at the Charles Sumner School. For the private record, it’s the Washingtoniana Division of the DC Public Library and the Historical Society of Washington. The DC Archives is housed in a slowly deteriorating former horse barn. The Office of Property Management wants to lease a private commercial building for a temporary home. Trudy has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the lease. She reported that a Request for Proposals was issued to shelve and move the records in the DC Archives and that the contract was apparently awarded to a company named Space Saver, to shelve and move the records at the DC Archives to a location listed as 6935 Eastern Avenue in Takoma Park, MD. This is a private, not a city-owned building, which doesn’t make it ideal. Apparently the city’s goal is to find a temporary location in order to get out of Naylor Court and away from the leaking roof problems. In terms of a long-term location, Trudy wondered about the Old Recorder of Deeds Building, although she said it’s not large enough to hold all of the records. Trudy mentioned that the DC Archivist reports to the Secretary of State. She said Pat Elwood was the new Boss of the Archives and that records management in the city is lacking in all institutions because the agencies are all understaffed. There are only five full-time people in the DC Archives and they can’t do records management for a city government. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) had been storing records under the Sousa Bridge but they were moved to an office building. The agency became alarmed because they were damp and stuck together. Peterson was asked to help and spent a half day finding a vendor or conservator to help restore the documents. Peterson emphasized that the city needs a Records Management Office. She’s written to Deborah Nichols, the DC Auditor, and asked her to audit the condition of the Records Program in one or more agencies. She encouraged others to do so as well and to support the idea of looking at records management in DC agencies. Nichols’s email address is: ODC@dc.gov Peterson then went on to review some of the institutions doing Records Management in the public and private sector. Charles Sumner School: School’s Records: The Board of Education decided to have its own Archives so that is an archives of the Board of Education, not of the schools. She quoted from a July 25th article in the DC Examiner about the DC School Board’s previous budgets not being available. Few budget records exist.. She wrote to the Inspector General, who is auditing the DC Schools, and asked him to look at the records because the system has collapsed. There is no long-term plan for the private sector. She encouraged others to write to him as well at: Director@oig.gov City Museum (private sector): Peterson mentioned an October 7th Washington Business Journal article on the City Museum. The Library and Manuscript collections are open for limited hours. The Museum was considering leasing space to a Music Museum. Peterson said she can’t do a FOIA because it’s a private organization. Peterson mentioned that The Historical Society of Washington’s Board (HSW) created the Mt. Vernon Consortium to manage the building and its leasing arrangements. The organization is $1.2 or 1.3 million in debt and this needs to be retired. HSW’s Board is looking for new members. She encouraged others to contact members of the HSW Board and find inter-linkages between members and other organizations that might be helpful. Washingtoniana Division (public sector) is the only one that is halfway stable with relatively stable staffing but they’re running out of space and it’s starting to affect their ability to accept materials from the community. Developers and their new plans will not give us solutions we need for the library. We need quality space, separately configured. Friends of DC Archives first meeting in January, Friends of Washingtoniana meeting Thursday, Nov. 17, Friends of School System not far behind. All of these Friends groups must work together. Nelson Rimensayder spoke up saying the DC Records Board has jurisdiction over the DC Archives. He had opposed the transfer of the DC Archives form the National to the local government. He said our difficulties stem from the fact that we’re a state, county and a city all in one. Nelson reported that he sent a memo to Alice Rivlin on October 20, 2003 asking for her help with the DC Archives. He said the DC Government doesn’t have the money to archive the Control Board’s records. He spoke with members of the Appropriations Committee who said they would welcome a request from Rivlin to help with the DC Archives. So far, Rivlin has apparently said nothing to them. Cheryl Hobbs Newman, Secretary to the city, was quoted in a Dec. 4, 2003 article in the Post on the DC Archives. $500,000 to store records? Francis Buckley, Interim Director of the DC Public Library System, said the DC Public Library had accepted a donation of the Washington Post’s Morgue, which did not come with any endowment. The Post paid for moving and shelving but not for maintenance and support for the morgue. Dick Wolfe said he’s Councilmember Ambrose’s delegate to redo the comprehensive plan. The city government doesn’t have a capitol spending budget or public facilities plan. It’s all politics, it’s all pressure. Joe Grano said that the Charles Sumner School archives is endangered. Archivist Judy Capurso doesn’t have authority to go into schools. He mentioned a consortium of six organizations ? Two school offices may move into the Sumner Building, further reducing available space for archives. Karen Blackman-Mills from Washingtoniana said there are terrible problems with climate control in the building and the library is running out of room for archival collections. She said the library would like the Post’s archive of Photos. We need a plan to support each other to save historical records. Donna Wells, from Howard University, mentioned the Consortium of Universities that Howard belongs to, and suggested that a Consortium of DC institutions could bring people together. Gail McCormick (Gail.McCormick@goucher.edu) former HSW employee, spoke movingly about the difficulties of working at the Society and why she made the painful decision to leave several years ago. She said it was time to do something—to get the Post to do something—perhaps a Center for Newspaper Research. Mary Ternes, Faye Haskins, Gail McCormick, Roxanna Dean agreed it was important to have a collaborative effort at the Historical Society of Washington. Carl Cole, said he was the “man on the street.” He recommended that each Agency appoint a records officer. He also recommended that we should lobby the City Council for a Records Management Program. David Songer of the Kiplinger Library at the Historical Society of Washington, said they are open three days a week from 10 – 5 p.m.. The collections are safe. The Society’s debt is $1.2 million. HSW has not missed a payment to date. No contract with a music museum or other group has been signed. The rumors are worse than the reality. Agencies are required to have a retention schedule. Lack of staff is a problem. They manage records in agencies and those in two collections. Trudy Peterson said it costs $500,000 per year to keep the Kiplinger library open. Peterson’s Action Plan 1. We need a working party of institutions and a steering committee to look at the prognosis for records management in DC 2. We need to lobby for a Records Management Program with the City Council. 3. Write Inspector General (Director@oig.gov) who is currently auditing the DC Schools 4. Write to Board Members of the Historical Society of Washington; find inter-linkages with other organizations 5. Write to the DC Auditor, Deborah Nichols (ODC@dc.gov) asking for records management inspections of DC government agencies 6. Study new plans for library Subject: The Future of DC's Historical Record(s) forum Nov. 5, 2005 From: "Haskins, Faye (DCPL)" <firstname.lastname@example.org> The forum is being held as part of the DC Historical Studies Conference--- OPEN FORUM on the FUTURE OF DC's HISTORICAL RECORD Sat., Nov. 5, 2005, 1:30-3:00 pm MLK Library, Room 443 901 G Street, NW Everyone is cordially invited to an open forum moderated by Trudy Peterson, past Archivist of the United States and local DC resident, on the future of institutions which collect local DC history. The forum is being held during the DC Historical Studies Conference at the MLK Library in Room 443 on Saturday, November 5 starting at 1:30 pm. Please come and discuss your ideas and concerns about the future of the DC Archives/Public Records Office, City Museum/Historical Society of Washington, new downtown Public Library, and those other institutions with collections that document local history. Faye Haskins Photo Librarian DC Public Library Washingtoniana Division 901 G Street, NW Washington, DC 20001 202-727-2272 -- Matthew Gilmore H-DC list co-editor, web editor Vice President, Networks -- H-Net email@example.com http://www.h-net.org/~dclist/ [list website] http://www.h-net.org/hcalendar/month.php?user=H-DC [calendar] http://www.h-net.org/lists/subscribe.cgi?list=H-DC [subscribe to H-DC] Remember to check http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=lm&list=h-dc for past list messages.