Event Hosted by NYU Wagner’s Brademas Center for the Study of Congress

Marks 30th Anniversary of Presidential Recordings Preservation Act

A lot has changed in the 30 years since Congress passed the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, which assured federal ownership of the tapes and papers of the Nixon presidency.

The John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service will host a day-long Symposium on Presidential and Public Papers, to explore the history of the legislation, its role today, and current issues in archiving the papers of government officials. The symposium will be held on Tuesday, October 25, beginning at 9:00 am, at NYU’s Kimmel Center for University Life (60 Washington Square South).

The center, named in honor of NYU President Emeritus and former Member of Congress, Dr. John Brademas, is focused on the role of Congress in making national policy. Dr. Brademas, as chairman of a subcommittee of the then Committee on House Administration, was chief author of the 1974 law that nullified a decision by President Gerald R. Ford to turn over to Richard Nixon, who had just resigned, the papers and tapes of his presidency.

The 1974 measure led to the Presidential Records Act of 1978, under which American presidents no longer have title to their records. But senators and representatives still do and can legally destroy them.

“In our separation-of-powers constitutional system, if a senator or representative knows what he or she is doing, and if the configuration of political forces makes action possible, the legislator can without picking up the telephone to call the White House, write the laws of the land,” said Brademas.

“So the papers of senators and representatives are part of our history, too, and I think we should therefore develop a rational public policy for handling Congressional records.”

The symposium, which will be keynoted by Allan Weinstein, archivist of the United States, will feature three panels.

Members of the first panel will discuss the history, content and relevance of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act as well as the legal implications of the act and its relevance for the work of historians, political scientists, and archivists. The panel will also examine attempts at altering the provisions of the original legislation, such as an executive order issued by the current Bush Administration that has put in place new barriers to former President’s records. William Sudow, partner at Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP and staff director of the House subcommittee that drafted the 1974 statute, will moderate the panel. Sharon Fawcett, assistant archivist for Presidential Libraries, National Archives and Records Administration; Bruce P. Montgomery, associate professor and faculty director of archives, University of Colorado at Boulder, whose writing on presidential papers has appeared in Presidential Studies Quarterly, the American Archivist and the Washington Post; and Anna K. Nelson, Distinguished Historian in Residence, American University, who received a presidential appointment to serve on the Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board, will serve as panelists.

The second panel will debate the importance of the papers of senators, representatives and other officials of the federal government from the perspective of political scientists, historians and other researchers. Bruce Craig, executive director of the National Coalition for History will serve as moderator of the panel. Other panelists include Robert V. Remini, historian of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Nancy Beck Young, associate professor of History, McKendree College, and a past recipient of the D.B. Hardeman Prize for the best book on Congress.

The third panel will discuss the potential for creating more effective public policies for archiving the papers of public officials. The panel will also consider the impact on the work of historians and archivists of developments such as e-mail and the Internet. The panel will be moderated by Michael Gillette, executive director of Humanities Texas and former director, Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives and Records Commission. Karen Paul, archivist of the U.S. Senate; John Constance, director of Congressional and Public Affairs, National Archives and Records Administration; and Raymond Smock, director, Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies, Shepherd University, will serve as panelists.

The Honorable Allen Weinstein, archivist of the United States, will present the keynote address for the symposium. Dr. John Brademas, NYU’s president emeritus, and chief House author of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, will also provide remarks.

The symposium will run from 9am until 5pm; a champagne reception will follow, from 5pm to 6:30pm, and will feature displays from the John Brademas Congressional Papers Collection at the Mamdouha S. Bobst Gallery (Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South). These events are free and open to the public.

For more information or to register, please call 212.998.2269 or e-mail brademas.center@nyu.edu. When registering, kindly let us know which portion of the day’s events you would like to attend.

This symposium has been made possible by a contribution by the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Foundation.

Established in 1938, the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service offers advanced programs leading to the professional degrees of Master of Public Administration, Master of Urban Planning, Master of Science in Management, and Doctor of Philosophy. Through these rigorous programs, NYU Wagner educates the future leaders of public, nonprofit, and health institutions as well as private organizations serving the public sector. http://wagner.nyu.edu.

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