NCC Advocacy Update

NCC News, November 1988

Page Putnam Miller, November 1988

FY'89 Appropriations

This year Congress succeeded in passing all the appropriations bills prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1, thereby avoiding the confusion of an omnibus continuing resolution. History related federal programs fared well in this year's budget. The FY'89 appropriation for the National Archives is $121.9 million, up from $116 million last year. Of this amount, $4 million is earmarked for the grants program of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The National Archives budget also includes special one-time appropriations for transfer of the records of the Reagan Administration to California and some construction work at the Kennedy Presidential Library. Despite the overall increase in the appropriation, the anticipated operating budget for the National Archives will be close to the FY'88 levels.

Although the President recommended level funding of $140.435 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities for FY'89, the Congress increased the NEH budget by almost $13 million for a total of $153 million. The increases can be attributed to several factors. Representative Sidney Yates (D-IL) launched a major effort to have NEH take a lead in dealing with the problem of preserving brittle books and records published on acidic paper. The appropriation for the NEH Preservation Office will increase from $4.5 million to $12.5 million. Supporters of the state humanities councils worked hard this year to alert Congress to the importance of public humanities programs at the local and state levels and are pleased by an increased from $21.3 million for State Programs to $25 million. Another factor working in favor of a NEH increase was a general undertaking on many fronts to close the funding gap that has existed for some years between the appropriations of the Humanities and the Arts Endowments. Last year the Arts Endowment received $28 million more the Humanities Endowment. This year the gap has been reduced to $16 million.

The FY'89 budget also included increases for historic preservation. There is $24.75 million for the State Historic Preservation Fund (up from $22 million in FY'88) and $4.75 million for the National Trust for Historic Preservation (up from $4.5 million in FY'88). There is also an appropriation in this year's Interior bill for black and women's history landmark projects. Congress, in both oversight committees and appropriation committees, has urged the National Park Service to increase the involvement of scholarly associations in researching landmarks. The funding for the women's history landmark project has evolved from a joint undertaking of the National Park Service, the Organization of American Historians, and the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History that began two years ago. The project will involve the identification and nomination of nationally significant sites associated with women's experiences to the National Landmark Program and the preparation of appropriate theme study essays that integrate the tangible resources of women's past with recent scholarship on women's history. Currently less than five percent of the approximately 2,000 properties identified as National Historic Landmarks commemorate women's experiences and contributions.

National Endowment for the Humanities

In September Lynne Cheney, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, issued to the President, the Congress, and the American people a report on the status of the humanities entitled "Humanities In America." Cheney organized the report around three institutional groups that affect the teaching and learning of the humanities in our society: colleges and universities; television; and public humanities organizations such as museums, historical societies, libraries, and state humanities councils. While Cheney commends television and the public humanities organizations, she expresses deep concern over the state of the humanities in higher education. The report specifically addresses the fact that in 37% of the nation's colleges and tuniversities it is possible to earn a bachelor's degree without taking any course in history. In a section on "The Scholar and Society" the report concentrates on the adverse effects of specialization, of emphasizing research and publishing at the expense of teaching, and of politicizing the curriculum. The full report appears in the September 21, 1988 Chronicle of Higher Education. A single copy of the report is available free from the Office of Publications and Public Affairs, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington 20506.

Congress Passes Legislation to Establish a History Program for the Judicial Branch

On September 13 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4807, A Court Reform and Access to Justice Act of 1988. Following quick movement through the Senate Committees, the measure came up on the Senate floor for a voice vote on October 14 and passed. The significance of this legislation for historians is found in a small section, buried alongside the provisions regarding arbitration and multidistrict litigation, that gives the Federal Judicial Center the authority to implement a history program. The Federal Judicial Center, an independent agency in the judicial branch of government responsible for providing education, training, and research services to the judicial branch, is authorized to "conduct, coordinate, and encourage programs relating to the history of the Judicial Branch of the United States government." Currently little attention is being given to preserving the history of the judicial branch and the need for such a program is well documented. House Report 100-889 Part I, which accompanies H.R. 4807, states: "Preservation and use of historical material is a useful and valid service to contemporary work. Knowing how and why things came to be the way they are contributes substantially to any assessment of current effectiveness and to appreciating the promise of proposals for change." The history program should, in the words of this House Judiciary Committee's Report, "be implemented in consultation with an advisory committee...composed of legal and constitutional historians whose field of research is judicial history, judges interested in the field of judicial history, and judicial administrators assigned the function of maintaining and preserving records." Once this bill is signed into law by the President, historians have a special responsibility to oversee its implementation and to work for the establishment of a strong historical program that will foster increased study.