About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Society of History in the Federal Government Annual Meeting

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
April 25, 2019 

Hello!  It’s great to have you back here at the National Archives or as I like to call it “My House.” It is nice to see familiar faces and many new members in the audience.

Since 1979 the National Archives staff has been involved with the Society––some were founding members and over the past 40 years NARA staff have served in many capacities such as President, including the current one; editor of the publication The Federalist; on the Executive Council, and more. The agency is an institutional member of the Society, and we host monthly executive council meetings and workshops.

At the beginning of the society’s founding, the National Archives was a main topic of discussion. During your first annual meeting in 1980, Senator Robert Morgan of North Carolina gave the keynote address on the need for an independent National Archives. It was an issue that galvanized the Society.

Over a four year period the Society worked tirelessly to get the Archives moved out of the GSA with many Society Presidents and members even testifying before Congress. Their efforts paid off in November 1984 when Congress passed legislation making the National Archives independent.

And I thank this society for its influence upon ME!

A few years ago I had the pleasure of speaking at your afternoon program just up the street at Clyde’s restaurant: my conversations from that evening led to the creation of an agency historian at the National Archives.

Thank you, as we are the better for it!

The title of this year’s conference is "Federal History as Public History.” This is a subject we can all get behind. NARA’s mission is to provide public access to Federal Government records and help citizens understand their history so they can participate more effectively in their government.

Historians, archivists, librarians, and curators across the US Government perform a variety of activities in their daily work: they research and write agency histories, respond to public reference inquiries, create interpretive exhibits, produce documentary histories, and maintain historical records, to name just a few. Ultimately, all of these activities serve the purpose of making federal history more accessible and useful to the public.

While you are here, I hope you’ll take time to visit the Rotunda upstairs and see the Charters of Freedom: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

In two weeks we will open our latest exhibit, Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote. This exhibit will explore how American women across the spectra of race, ethnicity, and class advanced the cause of suffrage and will follow the struggle for voting rights beyond 1920. Come back and check it out!

There are several people I want to recognize for making today’s annual meeting happen:

Society members Zack Wilske, Elizabeth Charles, Mattea Sanders,

and President Jessie Kratz. 

And National Archives staff… Nikol McCombs, Sabrina Suggs,

and contractor Jamie Atkinson.

Now it is time for the awards ceremony. Congratulations to the awardees…I hear several of you used NARA records in your award-winning work!

Thank you! And enjoy the program.