Publication Date

December 1, 1996

Archival Management of IRS Records

The Omnibus Spending Bill signed into law by the president on September 30 included a section dealing with the archival management of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) records. This section addresses some of the issues raised in July when historians joined Tax Analysts in petitioning the IRS to comply with the Federal Records Act and National Archives regulations. The historical community has been concerned for some time that the IRS has placed 'almost none of its administrative and policy records for the 20th century in the National Archives. The recently signed law directs the IRS and the National Archives to submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate by March 1, 1997. "This report," the law states, "must include an analysis of outstanding issues and a recommendation on how the disposition of these records should proceed."

Opening of New Nixon Documents

On October 17 the National Archives opened 28,035 documents from the special files of the Nixon White House. The National Archives originally intended to release these records in 1987, but due to objections from Nixon and others, they became part of what are often called the "Nixon contested materials" and remained closed. Subsequently, this body of 42,191 contested documents has undergone several reviews, the procedures for which are in the regulations that evolved from the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, the legislation passed soon after Nixon's resignation, which preserved the Nixon tapes.

The most recent review board completed its work this summer and decided that of the 42,191 documents, the National Archives would retain 33,199 documents and return 8,992 documents—deemed to be "personal"—to the Nixon estate. Of the 33,199 documents that the archives retained, 28,035 documents have been opened and are available for researchers to see at Archives II in College Park, Maryland. The other 5,164 documents remain closed due to reasons of privacy or national security.

In commenting on the opening of the documents from the contested Nixon White House files, historian Stanley Kutler, who sued the National Archives ill 1992 for lack of access to the Nixon tapes, expressed considerable concern that such a large portion of the collection had been' categorized as "personal records" and returned to the Nixon estate. Throughout the various reviews of this material there have been lengthy discussions about the degree to which campaign-related records that originated in the White House should be treated as personal records and returned to Nixon. Nixon's role as head of the Republican Party and his role as president of the United States were frequently intertwined in a way that makes it difficult to separate presidential from personal records. The material just released, as widely reported in the press, does include documents dealing with the Republican National Committee and Nixon's desire to have Bob Dole dismissed as its chair. However, Kutler believes that other campaign- related documents that should have remained at the National Archives are being returned to the Nixon estate.

National Park Service Releases Draft on Professional Standards

The National Park Service has just released for review and comment a draft of the Secretary of the Interior's Professional Qualification Standards, as well as guidelines to assist in applying the standards to 11 disciplines related to historic preservation. The standards apply to all persons who are under the Interior Department's authority-which includes National Park Service staff, contractors, and persons involved in the programs of state historic preservation offices and certified local governments. State historic preservation offices and certified local governments operate in partnership with the Department of the Interior. The National Park Service developed the Secretary of the Interior's Professional Qualification Standards 20 years ago to ensure that a consistent level of expertise would be applied nationally to the identification, evaluation, registration, documentation, treatment, and interpretation of historic and archeological resources.

The 1992 amendments to the National Historic Preservation Act required a revision of the standards and specifically called for the Secretary of the Interior and the Office of Personnel Management to ensure "equivalent requirements for the disciplines involved" and to ensure that "such standards shall consider the particular skills and expertise needed for the preservation of historic resources." The current regulations require a graduate degree in history or American studies ora bachelor’s degree and some professional experience as the minimum qualifications for the position of historian. In contrast, for the discipline of archeology, a graduate degree is required. Many historians had hoped that the revised standards would raise history to the standard of archeology, but it appears that archeology is being lowered to history’s standard.

The draft standards have three basic components for each discipline-academic or comparable training, professional experience, and products and activities that demonstrate proficiency in the field of historic preservation. While many think that the expanded section dealing with demonstrated proficiencies has merit, there is still concern that, after a decade of calling for the raising of professional standards, a graduate degree may sti1l not be required for the position of historian. The introduction to the standards do stress that they are aimed at the "journeyman" level-neither the beginner, nor the preeminent authority in a discipline.

NEH Establishes Funding Partnership with Mellon Foundation

On October 21 the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced a new cooperative funding initiative with the Mellon Foundation. Since 1974 the NEH has supported the work of more than 1,500 scholars at centers for advanced study, such as the Huntington Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Newberry Library, and the Institute of Early American History and Culture. With an additional $4.8 million in funding from the Mellon Foundation, the NEH will be able to enhance its support of advanced research fellowships in history, literature, philosophy, classics, and other humanities disciplines at the nation's independent research libraries, museums, and other centers for advanced study. The NEH's funding to support fellowship programs at independent research institutions will rise from the fiscal 1996 level of $1.5 million to double that amount in fiscal 1997 and 1998.

Fair-Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia Use

For the past two years the Conference on Fair Use has worked to develop guidelines on the educational use of copyrighted material in the electronic environment. Work has proceeded on a number of different topics, from the use of electronic material in distance learning, to the use of visual image archives and electronic library reserves, to the use educational multimedia materials for educational purposes. The Consortium of College and University Media Centers spearheaded the development of the guidelines on educational multimedia use. These guidelines, the first of the planned guidelines to be completed advise faculty and students on how to use copyrighted music, film, poems videotapes, and other materials in developing multimedia projects for c1assroon use. The guidelines set specific limits—such as "up to 10 percent, but in no even more than 30 seconds, of the music and lyrics from an individual musical work"—on the amount of material that may be used in classroom presentations.

A number of organizations representing educators and publishers have endorsed the educational multimedia guidelines. Ata press conference on October 14, the Consortium of College and University Media Centers announced that the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property had endorsed the guidelines. At the press conference, Lisa Livingston, who cochaired the committee that developed the guidelines, stated that the guidelines should give educators “peace of mind” that they follow the limits set by the guidelines, they will not need to obtain permission from copyright holders or pay a royalty fee. The endorsement of a congressional subcommittee does not give the guidelines statutory authority, but it does give the courts a sense of how members of Congress interpret “fair use” in these educational situations.

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