Monday we celebrated Presidents’ Day, a commemoration of George Washington’s birthday but also a celebration of the lives of all American presidents. A good deal of scholarship has examined the presidency and the lives and legacies of each Chief Executive.
But what about the co-equal legislative branch? There is no “Congress Day,” and studying the work of this large and ever-changing institution is more complicated and complex than making sense of a single person or administration.
Every day, the House and Senate make significant contributions to our nation’s history. The archival preservation of the personal papers of the Members of those bodies is critically important to ensuring ongoing public access to the documentary history of the legislative branch.
Congress itself has acknowledged the importance of preserving members’ personal papers because they serve as “indispensable sources for the study of American representative democracy.” In 2008, the 110th Congress passed H. Con. Res. 307, urging that:
Documenting Congress is an ongoing process accomplished by many. As long as Members of Congress, libraries, archival repositories, historical societies, and policy centers continue working together, we can preserve the legacy of our legislative branch and ensure a better and deeper understanding of American democracy.