National Endowment for the Humanities awards UH Mānoa Library, partners funds to develop online portal for congressional archives

The American Congress Digital Archives Portal Project, led by West Virginia University Libraries, has received a nearly $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to expand the American Congress Digital Archives Portal, the first-ever online portal bringing together congressional archives from repositories throughout the United States.

The UH Mānoa Libraryʻs Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection is proud to be a project partner, along with the 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, the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at University of Georgia.

“The personal papers of members of Congress are vitally important for understanding Congress as an institution, public policy development, and the many diverse stories that comprise the American experience,” Danielle Emerling, Congressional and Political Papers archivist at WVU Libraries and project director, said. “We are honored to have support from the NEH to make more congressional archives available to everyone.” The NEH awarded WVU Libraries the initial grant to launch the project and create the portal in 2021.

The project addresses many practical access barriers to using congressional archives. Unlike presidential papers, which are centralized in one location, congressional collections are geographically dispersed across institutions large and small. For researchers, collections may be difficult to use, both because of a lack of travel funding and varying levels of description in congressional archives.

“This project will specifically address the critical needs of rural and geographically isolated regions of our country to make national records available to all citizens,” Dr. Kelli Nakamura, associate professor of history at the University of Hawai‘i, said. “It will also highlight the connections that exist between members of Congress and illuminate the collaborative efforts that often ensure the successful passage of legislative bills and initiatives.”

The project will include a breadth of materials dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century and support civic and history education initiatives that help connect the past to the present.

Materials that the Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection will contribute to the portal include all of Senator Daniel K. Inouye’s speeches, materials documenting Senator Hiram L. Fong’s 1959 trip to Asia, Senator Spark M. Matsunaga’s speeches on redress for Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII, some of Congressman Neil Abercrombie’s materials on the Iraq war, and all of Senator Daniel K. Akaka’s speeches.

Vice President Al Gore, Senator Daniel Inouye, Representative Patsy Mink, Representative Neil Abercrombie, and Senator Daniel Akaka with President Bill Clinton, signing the Apology Resolution. Senator Daniel K. Inouye Papers, Hawai’i Congressional Papers Collection, University Archives & Manuscripts Department, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library

This grant project builds on an NEH foundations grant awarded in 2021, which resulted in a prototype portal and included archives from WVU Libraries, the Dole Institute of Politics, and the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education. The project has also received support from LYRASIS and the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress.

The NEH’s Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program supports projects that provide an essential underpinning for scholarship, education, and public programming in the humanities. The project was selected for funding, in part, by a new agency-wide special initiative, “American Tapestry: Weaving Together Past, Present, and Future,” because the project will help emphasize the role of the humanities in tackling contemporary social challenges: strengthening our democracy, advancing equity for all, and addressing our changing climate.


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