News Topic

Advocacy, Archives & Records


State & Local (US)

On June 16, AHA president Vicki L. Ruiz and executive director James Grossman sent a letter protesting proposed cuts to funding for the research collections at the State Historical Society of Iowa to Governor Terry Branstad and the leadership of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. Since 2000, the staff at the state-funded agency has been reduced from 20 to 3, research hours have been cut to three days a week, and accessioning of new materials has been suspended. A coalition of historians contacted the AHA Research Division expressing their concerns about the cuts. The Research Division advocates for access to archives and research collections, an important aspect of the AHA’s mission.

June 16, 2015

Governor Terry Branstad
Mary Cownie, Director, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Chris Kramer, Deputy Director, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Dear Governor Branstad, Ms. Cownie, and Mr. Kramer:

I write on behalf of the American Historical Association—the leading organization of historians in the United States—to express our grave concern about reductions in resources for the research collections at the State Historical Society of Iowa. An early and active proponent of state archives laws in the United States, the AHA remains committed to the preservation of our heritage, and to its accessibility. We understand that a shortage of financial resources has forced the state to make some difficult financial choices, and that in such situations, everyone claims that their particular activity is sacrosanct. The archives and research collections at the State Historical Society of Iowa, however, tell the story of all Iowans. Genealogists, students, historians, journalists: all require access to these vital records to participate in the preservation of the state’s heritage and the practical use of its past. Beyond the interests of historical researchers, a wide variety of civic‐minded Iowans depend on open access to archives. Teachers, lawyers, real estate developers, leaders of neighborhood associations—all rely not only on the vital records housed in the State Historical Society of Iowa, but on the expert advice of its archivists. The records of any government represent the heritage of its people, and can serve that role only when its citizens have access to consult those records. Closing the doors to the archives would represent a devastating blow not only to historians, genealogists, and others with an interest in the past, but also the state’s policymakers and leaders who need a solid understanding of the past to help shape Iowa’s future. I urge you to allocate resources that will enable this vital service to remain open and accessible to all.


Vicki L. Ruiz

James R. Grossman
Executive Director