View the H-NCH Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in H-NCH's April 2004 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in H-NCH's April 2004 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the H-NCH home page.
NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE (Vol. 10, #16; 16 April 2004) by Bruce Craig (editor) <firstname.lastname@example.org> National Coalition for History (NCH) Website http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~nch ***************** 1. Historical and Archival Communities Push for Senate Hearing on Archivist of the U.S. Position 2. Historians and Archivists Take a Closer Look at the Weinstein Nomination 3. State Department Turns Over Electronic Records to NARA 4. Job Postings -- Historian of the House and Director, National Museum of African American History and Culture 5. Bits and Bytes: Recovering Iraq's Past Grants Awarded; Gilder Lehrman Fellowships; Fordham Report 6. Articles of Interest: "Archeologists Mourn Plunder of Iraq's Treasures" (Washington Post 10 April 2004) 1. HISTORICAL AND ARCHIVAL COMMUNITIES URGE SENATE HEARING ON ARCHIVIST OF THE U.S. POSITION Concern is growing within the archival and historical communities regarding the Bush administration's hoped for "fast-track" process to replace Archivist of the United States John Carlin with one of its own choosing -- historian Allen Weinstein. According to informed sources, the administration hopes to short-circuit the normal confirmation process and see Weinstein confirmed through an "expedited" process. Their goal -- place Weinstein in the position prior to the November election. According to Hill insiders, the effort to replace Carlin is coming from the highest levels of the White House. Reportedly, Karl Rove who is widely viewed as one of the president's chief political advisors, if not his political mastermind and, Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President, want their own archivist in place for two overarching reasons: first, because of the sensitive nature of certain presidential and executive department records likely to be opened in the near future, and second, because there is genuine concern in the White House that the president may not be re-elected. Though it is not widely known, in January 2005, the first batch of records (the mandatory 12 years of closure having passed) relating to the president's father's administration will be subject to the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and could be opened. Another area of concern to presidential officials relates to the 9-11 Commission records. Because there is no mandatory 30-year closure rule (except for highly classified White House and Executive Department records and documents), all materials relating to the commission are scheduled to be transferred to the National Archives upon termination of the Commission later this year. These records could be made available to researchers and journalists as soon as they are processed by NARA. In what appears to be a calculated move by administration officials, Rove and Gonzales have advanced the nomination of Weinstein fully aware that according to the "National Archives and Records Administration Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-497) the Archivist of the United States position is to be an appointment based "without regard to political affiliations and solely on the basis of the professional qualifications required to perform the duties and responsibilities of the office of the Archivist." If Weinstein is confirmed and if President Bush is not elected, then President Kerry could be accused of "politicizing" the position should he try to replace Weinstein. In fact, though, the president's strategy in seeking to replace Carlin at this time rather than later injects an element of partisanship that could give John Kerry, should he be elected president in November, ample justification to replace Weinstein in the same manner that the White House is seeking to replace Carlin. Carlin has made it widely known that he anticipated stepping down from the Archivist position in July 2005, upon his 65th birthday, upon the tenth anniversary of his appointment to the position, and upon the completion of his ten-year strategic plan for NARA. His intention not to step down until then has been stated in several public interviews including (reportedly), in a recent interview with CNN's Brian Lamb (26 November 2003 broadcast of "National Journal"). Months back, recognizing that Carlin intended to step down next year, archival organizations had begun to pull together qualification statements and a "highly qualified" list of names for the White House to consider in finding Carlin's replacement. What appeared to be an orderly procedure to pass power from Carlin to a new archivist in summer 2005 has now been short-circuited. There are two basic ways for the Archivist of the United States to be replaced -- resignation or replacement by the President. In his letter to NARA employees last week (see "Historian Allen Weinstein Slotted by Bush Administration to be Next Archivist of the United States" in NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE, Vol 10, #15 8 April 2004) Carlin stated that he was not resigning and he would not submit his resignation until a new archivist is appointed. There is no indication that the White House has any cause-related reason to replace Carlin and no reason was communicated to Congress when Weinstein's nomination was advanced formally last week. Some observers speculate that by refusing to resign until a new archivist is in place, Carlin is tacitly protesting what Hill insiders consider his "premature" removal. If Carlin (a Democrat appointed by Bill Clinton) had resigned outright, the decks would have been cleared for the White House to promptly replace him. However, that did not happen. It appears that the White House does not want any adverse publicity that would be generated by officially coming up with a "reason" for communicating to Congress its desire to replace Carlin as required by law ("the President shall communicate the reasons for any such removal to each House of the Congress"). Hence, by advancing Weinstein's nomination (which was received by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on 8 April) and by securing Weinstein's confirmation, the White House can then quietly force Carlin's resignation. Owing to the controversy surrounding the anticipated resignation of Carlin, historians and archivists are calling for these and other issues to be addressed in Weinstein's confirmation hearing. To that end, some historical and archival organizations believe that John Carlin should also be invited to testify under oath regarding the pressure he is under and what he knows about his "premature" resignation. Governmental Affairs Committee staff, however, report that such a move would almost be unprecedented in a confirmation hearing. On 14 April 2004, archival, historical, and other governmental watchdog organizations concerned both the politicization of the appointment process and the qualifications of the nominee, issued a "statement" calling for the Senate to conduct a confirmation hearing consistent with other positions of importance requiring Senate confirmation. The statement drafted by the Society of American Archivists and issued on behalf of several archival and historical organizations (see http://www.archivists.org/statements/weinstein.asp ) raises a concern about "the sudden announcement on April 8, 2004, that the White House has nominated Allen Weinstein to become the next Archivist of the United States." According to the statement that has the endorsement of the Society of American Archivists, the Association of Research Libraries, Council of State Historical Records Coordinators, Northwest Archivists, Inc., the Association of Documentary Editors, Midwest Archives Conference, the American Association for State and Local History, and the Organization of American Historians: "Prior to the announcement, there was no consultation with professional organizations of archivists or historians. This is the first time since 1985 that the process of nominating an Archivist of the United States has not been open for public discussion and input. We believe that Professor Weinstein must -- through appropriate and public discussions and hearings -- demonstrate his ability to meet the criteria that will qualify him to serve as Archivist of the United States....the decision to appoint a new Archivist should be considered in accordance with both the letter and the spirit of the 1984 law." The statement also calls on the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs "to schedule open hearings on this nomination in order to explore more fully 1) the reasons why the Archivist is being replaced, and 2) Professor Weinstein's qualifications to become Archivist of the United States." 2. HISTORIANS AND ARCHIVISTS BEGIN TO TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THE WEINSTEIN NOMINATION Now that the nomination of Allen Weinstein has been officially advanced to the Senate for confirmation (see related story above), historians and archivists are scrambling to learn more about the president's nominee. Allen Weinstein possesses both strong Republican political connections and scholarly qualifications. In the past he has served as a foreign policy adviser to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Lugar has worked with Weinstein for years in promoting democracy across the globe. According to the senator, Weinstein "always has had a keen understanding and perspective of the complexities of democratic societies, qualities that will serve him well as head of the agency that preserves the nation's most important documents." (For Weinstein's official bio, tap into http://www.centerfordemocracy.org/awbio.html ). But outside the world of Republican political activists and a small circle of historians of espionage, Weinstein is not very well known by many academics. Also, he is a virtual unknown to archivists. Though he possesses fine academic training and qualifications, Weinstein has not been a member of either the Organization of American Historians or the American Historical Association for years, essentially since his career turned to that of being an activist in the field of foreign relations and international service. Several historians and journalists familiar with Weinstein's scholarly and popular writings (especially relating to the contentious Alger Hiss case) and career have started to express their views on the nominee privately and publicly. His nomination has been characterized by former National Security Archive founder and director Scott Armstrong as "the most cynical appointment of an Archivist possible. He [Weinstein] has a very clouded, very complicated, self-promoting, neo-con, politically manipulative record....While he uses historical documentation in his work, he is very selective in his use." Much of the controversy on Weinstein's work relates to the disposition of his research notes and his research methods relating to his "Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case" (1978, rev. 1998) and a more recent work, "The Haunted Wood" (1999). His book on the Alger Hiss case is considered in many circles as definitive. Because Weinstein concluded that Alger Hiss was Soviet spy, he earned the wrath of Hiss's defenders (including Victor Navasky publisher of The Nation), but, at the same time, Weinstein found himself embraced by conservatives for the same reasons. "Perjury" served as his entree into the world of conservative causes and financing which Weinstein has tapped throughout the years to help underwrite his various projects. (For interesting reading focusing on the records-related issues regarding "Perjury," tap into: http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml%3Fi=19971103&s=navasky and http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20010716&c=1&s=navasky ). More controversial questions arise out of a more recent study in which allegedly Weinstein (or his publisher) paid a fee to the KGB for "exclusive access" to documents that no other historians have been able to see relating to Soviet espionage in America. Historian Ellen Schrecker writes about Weinstein's role in the payment to the KGB (in possible violation of Russian law) that resulted in the crafting of "The Haunted Wood" co-authored by Weinstein and former KGB agent Alexander Vassiliev (For more on this controversial issue, tap into: http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=19990524&s=schrecker ). Schrecker notes "this sort of research is not the kind that inspires confidence within the scholarly community" and it raises "ethical questions." (See also other recent postings on the History News Network by British economist-historian Roger Sandilands: http://hnn.us/articles/printfriendly/4604.html and The Nation lead editorial, "The Haunted Archives" at: http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040503&s=editors ). In addition to professional historians' concern about Weinstein's research methods and attitudes about access to records, Weinstein has yet to establish his credentials in the realm of archival management. Consequently, archivists have begun to compile a series of questions that Weinstein will be asked to respond to. In the statement issued 14 April (see related story above) archivists have expressed a desire to learn more about Weinstein's "knowledge and understanding of the critical issues confronting NARA and the archival profession generally, especially the challenges of information technology, and the competing demands of public access to government records, privacy, homeland security, and ensuring the authenticity and integrity of all records." To that end, archivists wondered how Weinstein believes NARA "should balance competing interests for protecting sensitive or confidential information with those seeking to gain access to records created by government agencies; ideas for continuing essential programs as well as important new archival initiatives, such as the Electronic Records Archives project; his thoughts on fully supporting the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) whose grants help to raise the level of archival practice at state and local levels," and his "experience and demonstrated ability to lead and manage a large government agency such as NARA." No doubt in the weeks ahead, answers to these and other questions stand to make this nomination controversial both in terms of the politicization of the office of Archivist of the United States and with respect to the nominee's specific qualifications. Hopefully, answers will come when the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee holds confirmation hearings that have yet to be scheduled. 3. STATE DEPARTMENT TURNS OVER ELECTRONIC RECORDS TO NARA On 13 April 2004, Archivist of the Unites States John W. Carlin accepted the first increment of the electronic diplomatic records from the Department of State dating from July 1973 to December 1974. These documents contain approximately 700,000 communications between the U.S. State Department in Washington D.C. and foreign service posts all over the world. According to Carlin, "The State Department records are the second most heavily used category of records after genealogical resources" and that "this is the first major body of electronic records the National Archives has ever accepted." At the ceremony, the State Department and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) setting forth details on how the agencies will work cooperatively on standardizing formats for data transfer to the archives. The MOU provides a framework for a research initiative which uses the Electronic Records Archives' vital laboratory to further two common objectives: to resolve e-document transfer issues well in advance of their transfer and to explore relevant knowledge management technologies to provide the public with full, effective access to these records once they are permanently transferred to the National Archives. The release of these records had been a subject of controversy for some years and was a topic of frequent discussion by historians who serve on the Department of State Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation. After a processing period, NARA will make these records available to the public via the Internet. Once on-line, these records will become the first publicly accessible application developed under the National Archives Electronic Records Archives program, Access to Archival Databases. 4. JOB POSTINGS -- HISTORIAN OF THE HOUSE AND DIRECTOR NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY As readers of this publication are aware, only on rare occasions do we post job announcements. However, this week two come to our attention -- a re-advertisement for the Historian of the House and a new posting for the Director of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. First Position -- U.S. House of Representatives (Washington, DC): "The Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, is seeking a historian to serve as the in-house authority on House historical matters. Provide historical information to House leadership, members, and officers, conduct public lectures, participate in interviews and panel discussions, respond to press/media inquiries, serve as a member of the Capitol Visitors Center exhibit content team, and lead various initiatives such as establishing and developing oral history and photographic archives programs. Requirements include demonstrated authoritative knowledge of Congressional history and operations, particularly the House of Representatives. Experience participating in interviews, panel discussions and other media events. Temperament to communicate with a variety of personalities in a tactful, pleasant, and professional manner. Advanced degree in American history preferred. Salary$103,969. Closing Date May 15, 2004. Fax cover letter and resume to Mr. Kenneth Kato, Office of History and Preservation, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, B-106 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515. Fax (202) 226-5204. EOE. For a related URL tap into: http//www.clerkweb.house.gov ." Second Position -- Director, National Museum of African American History and Culture: The Smithsonian Institution has announced the selection of a committee to conduct a nationwide search for a director of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. Sheila P. Burke, Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the Smithsonian, will chair the nine-member committee. Members of the committee are: James C. Early, director of cultural heritage policy at the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and acting director of the Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture; Deborah L. Mack, an independent museum consultant in Savannah, Ga.; Walter Massey, president of Morehouse College in Atlanta and a member of the Smithsonian's Board of Regents; Charles Ogletree, the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Clinical Programs at Harvard University Law School; Rodney Slater, former Secretary of Transportation and partner at Patton Boggs, LLP, in Washington, D.C.; H. Patrick Swygert, president of Howard University in Washington, D.C.; J.C. Watts Jr., former congressman from Oklahoma and president of the J.C. Watts Companies based in Norman, Okla., and Washington, D.C.; Anthony Welters, chief executive officer of AmeriChoice Corp., a health care company based in Vienna, Va.; and W. Richard West, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. The committee will meet for the first time between mid-May and early June, with the hope of making its recommendations for director by year's end. In addition, the Smithsonian will retain an outside search consultant to assist the committee in its efforts. The duties of the director of the museum include coordinating the museum's fundraising efforts and budget development; identifying and refining the museum's mission; and developing public programs about the history, culture and contributions of African Americans. Individuals interested in applying for the position should write: email@example.com. 5. NEWS BYTES AND BYTES Item #1 -- Recovering Iraq's Past Grants Awarded: The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced the first awards under the agency's special initiative, "Recovering Iraq's Past." Six grants totaling $559,000 will support projects to preserve and document Iraq's cultural resources and to develop education and training opportunities for Iraq's librarians, archivists, and preservation specialists. The awards are part of a coordinated effort by the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other federal agencies to assist in rebuilding the cultural heritage infrastructure in Iraq. Projects funded under the initiative focus on the preservation and documentation of resources, which, because of their intellectual content and value as cultural artifacts, are considered highly important for research, education, and public programming in the humanities. Additional information about the awards and assistance program special initiative can be found at: http://www.neh.gov . Item #2 -- Gilder Lehrman Fellowships: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History invites applications for short-term fellowships in two categories, Research Fellowships for post-doctoral scholars at every faculty rank, and Dissertation Fellowships for doctoral candidates who have completed exams and begun dissertation reading and writing. Fellowships support work in one of five archives: The Gilder Lehrman Collection, on deposit at The New York Historical Society; The Library of The New York Historical Society; The Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library; The New York Public Library - Humanities and Social Sciences Library and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (NYPL). The deadline for applications is 1 May 2004. For details about the program, please visit: http://www.gilderlehrman.org/historians/scholar1.html . Item #3 -- Fordham Report: The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has released its latest in a series of reports on the state of our history curriculum in schools around the country. This newest report, entitled "The Stealth Curriculum: Manipulating America's History Teachers," authored by Sandra Stotsky, examines the supplemental materials and workshops that history teachers take to fill in the knowledge gaps on subjects ranging from the history of racism in the U.S. to the history of Islam, and finds many of them coming up short. According to the report, "instructional materials that teachers rely upon to supplement their textbooks and their own knowledge may be dangerous to children's educational health. The creators of such materials (and professional development programs for teachers) often inject bias and political manipulation into the minds of teachers and, subsequently, their students." To access the report, tap into: http://www.edexcellence.net/foundation/publication/publication.cfm?id=331 . 6. ARTICLES OF INTEREST One article this week: In "Archeologists Mourn Plunder of Iraq's Treasures" (Washington Post 10 April 2004) there is a discussion of looting of archeological sites in Iraq, "which began more than a decade ago, has picked up sharply in the past year amid the chaos that has sprung up since the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. And as it has grown more pervasive, so it has become more organized and ingenious." For the article, tap into: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1193-2004Apr10.html . *********************************************************** The National Coalition for History invites you to subscribe to this FREE weekly newsletter! You are also encouraged to redistribute the NCH Washington Updates to colleagues, friends, teachers, students and others who are interested in history and archives issues. A complete b backfile of these reports is maintained by H-Net on the NCH's recently updated web page at: <http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~nch>. To subscribe to the "NCH Washington Update," send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following text in the body of the message (and only this text): SUBSCRIBE H-NCH firstname lastname, institution. To unsubscribe send an e-mail message to: email@example.com according to the following model: SIGNOFF H-NCH. You can accomplish the same tasks by tapping into the web interface at http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/lists/subscribe.cgi and at the "network" prompt, scroll down and select H-NCH; enter your name and affiliation and "submit". **************************************************************