Through a $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Georgia Libraries will partner with other academic institutions to expand a nation-wide online congressional archive with content from many of the nation’s most influential politicians.
The funding will allow UGA’s Russell Library for Political Research and Studies to contribute digitized materials to the American Congress Digital Archives Portal, based at the West Virginia and Regional History Center at West Virginia University Libraries. Through the project, scholars and the public will have free online access to personal records, documents, and other notes and memorabilia from the collections of several of Georgia’s former members of Congress, alongside other noted political figures from across the country.
“We are thrilled to participate in this important project,” said Sheryl Vogt, director of the Russell Library. “A searchable online portal for congressional collections has been a longtime goal for those in the congressional archives community. Ultimately, the project provides a resource that will lead to a better understanding of Congress, which is key to maintaining our representative democracy and advancing civic education.”
“The project aims to address barriers for those accessing congressional archives, which are often geographically dispersed across locations and institutions, as opposed to researching presidential papers in a centralized location,” Vogt added. With the expansion, the digital portal will provide access to congressional archives housed in six states, including as far away as Hawaii.
The UGA work will begin with the papers of Sens. Richard B. Russell Jr. and Herman E. Talmadge, as well as digitized materials from Rep. Ed L. Jenkins, providing unique insights into several key events and political issues of the 20th century.
“These collections document congressional committee activities, including the hearings on Douglas MacArthur, Watergate, and the Iran-Contra affair,” said Robert Lay, arrangement and description archivist at Russell Library. “We selected materials that document these hearings because they offer a striking view into the procedures and personalities that animate the U.S. Congress at some of the most significant moments in U.S. history.”
“The digitization of these materials will make the rich details of these hearings readily accessible for research and educational use,” added Jill Severn, who manages access and outreach for the Russell Library.
In addition to the American Congress Digital Archives portal, the materials will also be made available online through the Digital Library of Georgia and the Digital Public Library of America.
“Through digitization projects like this one, we can open up the Special Collections Libraries at the University of Georgia to people across our state, the country, and the world” said Toby Graham, university librarian and associate provost. “We are pleased to partner with the West Virginia Libraries and our colleagues throughout the United States to create a rich online network of congressional archives.”
This grant project builds on an NEH foundations grant awarded in 2021, which resulted in a protoype portal and included archives from WVU Libraries, the Dole Institute of Politics, and the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education. In addition to the Russell Library, new partners include Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center at the University of Oklahoma, the Dirksen Congressional Center, the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, and the University of Hawai`i Congressional Papers Collection, all members of the Association for Centers for the Study of Congress.
The project has also received support from LYRASIS and the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress.