Bringing together government professionals, academics, consultants, students, and citizens interested in understanding federal history work and the historical development of the federal government.


Federal History News

Timeline of Federal History
Dates and events critical to the work of historians tracing the development of the federal government:

Underground Railroad Conference
The National Park Service’s Network to Freedom program has announced a five-day conference, including a trip to Canada, on July 16–20, 2014, in Detroit, Michigan. It is titled “I Resolved Never to Be Conquered”: Women and the Underground Railroad.  Registration is available through the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) at: . Visit

George W. Bush Presidential Library Now Open
The George W. Bush Presidential Library opened to the public on May 1 on a 24-acre site at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. It is the 13th presidential library in the National Archives system. The facility houses a library and a museum, presidential archives, a public policy institute, the Bush foundation and a 15-acre park, all honoring Bush’s two terms in office. The library features a theater, a life-size Oval Office, a 14,000-square-foot permanent exhibit, classrooms, research rooms, storage rooms for archives as well as archival processing and exhibit preparation rooms. The library’s collections include more than 200 million emails (about 1 billion pages), 80 terabytes of digital information, nearly 70 million pages of documents, nearly 4 million photographs, and 43,000 artifacts, much of which will not be available and processed for years. The facility also includes be the privately funded George W. Bush Institute, which will be “committed to serious, independent research aimed at generating practical solutions to important public policy problems.”

The Founders Online
The Founders Online is a new website at the National Archives at It was created through a partnership between the University of Virginia Press and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the grantmaking arm of the National Archives. For the first time, it combines the papers of six Founding Fathers: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison in a fully searchable database. Over 119,000 documents, fully annotated, are included. In addition, as NHPRC Communications Director Keith Donohue reports, the site allows collation of searches in various ways across the collections, with results that will enable new insights into the Founders’ relationships and contributions. Donohue provides examples of the benefits:  “Assemble the Founders’ views on slavery into a single set of search results in which many of the original documents do not use the word at all” and Trace the Founders’ letters and diaries and debates leading up to the Constitutional Convention, their thoughts during the meetings in Philadelphia, the ratification of the Constitution by the states, and how the Washington administration, first Congress, and first Supreme Court implemented the grand experiment.” Visit

In Memoriam, William Maury, Census Bureau
William M. Maury died April 12, 2013, in Bethesda, Maryland. He was 73. Maury served as chief historian at the Census Bureau since 2002.Dr. Maury earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Maryland in 1963, a master’s degree from the George Washington University in 1968, and a doctorate from GWU in 1975. He served as chief historian of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society while working toward his doctorate.Earlier, he had worked as a data analyst for the Federal Aviation Administration and taught history at Catholic University and George Washington University. Maury was a longtime member and supporter of the Society for History in the Federal Government.

Duke University Oral History Project
At Duke University, history professor Edward Balleisen is leading a project to create an online gateway to regulatory oral histories—oral histories with regulators, the regulated, or political actors who were instrumental in creating or changing regulatory agencies or frameworks. As part of the project, we are working to catalog and tag the most relevant oral histories to make them more accessible as well as to help sort through what interviews have been conducted and the work that remains to be done. We have identified several caches, such as those at the SEC Historical Society, the Columbia Center for Oral History (e.g. its FCC project), and the FDA, but we hope to draw on the knowledge of this list’s members to target individual interviews or other rich collections of oral histories regarding regulatory agencies, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, at any level of government. We understand that some federal agencies have oral history projects whose interviews are not open to the public.  Our interest is in creating an extant database of digitally accessible oral histories for use by researchers.  But please do also let us know if you’re aware of relevant oral histories that remain in analog without a digital transcript but which are available to the public if they travel to the archive. Please e-mail any tips, leads, or general thoughts on the project to or

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives:  In 2012, the IHD launched a new website on Joseph Henry (1797–1878), the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, from 1846 to 1878. The website covers his career as a scientist and as a science administrator. See “Joseph Henry:  A Life in Science” at – - – In July 2012 “‘When Time and Duty Permit’: Smithsonian Collecting in World War II” opened in the ground floor of the National Museum of Natural History. The exhibit focuses on the Smithsonian’s role in the Pacific during World War II, providing geographic and scientific information on the Pacific, identifying disease-carrying pests, and encouraging soldiers stationed at remote locations to collect new specimens for the National Museum. The exhibit was curated by Smithsonian Historian Pamela M. Henson and will be on display until May of 2013. For additional information, see

NCPH  Michael C. Robinson Prize for Historical Analysis
The National Council on Public History invites applications and nominations for the biennial Michael C. Robinson Prize for Historical Analysis. The Robinson Prize, a $500 cash award and a certificate, recognizes historical studies that contribute to the formation of public policy. For information on eligibility and application procedures, visit

IN MEMORIAM, Anna Nelson
Anna Nelson died on September 27 in Washington, DC. She had retired after teaching diplomatic history at American University for 22 years. In her long association with government, she was a member of the National Study Commission on Records and Documents, 1976–77; the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, 1992–94; and the Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board, 1994–98. As a scholar, her awards included American Historical Association’s Troyer Steele Anderson Prize, and a public-policy fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was a member of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the Society for History in the Federal Government. She was active in the public history movement in the late 1970s and in the organization of the Society for History in the Federal Government, urging cooperation between historians and archivists, establishment of a House of Representative History Office, and the need to establish professional standards in federal history offices. She urged that the AHA’s National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History (NCC) represent and promote historical programs. There will be a memorial service at the Cosmos Club on Thursday, November 8, from 5 to 7 p.m. Those wishing to attend should contact Arnita Jones at Those wishing to speak should note that as well.

U.S. Capitol Historical Society Fellowship
Applications are invited for the 27th year of the United States Capitol Historical Society Fellowship. This fellowship is designed to support research and publication on the history of art and architecture of the United States Capitol and related buildings. Graduate students and scholars may apply for periods ranging from 1 to 12 months; the stipend is $2,500 per month. (Most awards are for one to four months.) — Applications must be postmarked, e-mailed, or faxed by March 15, 2013, for fellowships beginning in September 2013 and ending in August 2014. Applications should be mailed to Dr. Donald Kennon, U.S. Capitol Historical Society, 200 Maryland Avenue, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002; faxed to the Architect of the Capitol at (202)-228-4602; or e-mailed in PDF format to and Further details can be found at If you have questions about a potential topic, contact Dr. Barbara Wolanin at (202)-228-2700  or

Publications from the Bureau of Reclamation
The Bureau of Reclamation’s history program is able to offer copies of the following Reclamation publications to interested historians:
•  Billington, David P., with Donald C. Jackson and Martin V. Melosi. The History of Large Federal Dams: Planning, Design, and Construction. Denver, Colorado: Bureau of Reclamation, 2005.
•  Linenberger, Toni Rae. Dams, Dynamos, and Development: The Bureau of Reclamation’s Power Program and Electrification of the West. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2002.
•  Rowley, William D. The Bureau of Reclamation: Origins and Growth to 1945. Volume 1. Denver, Colorado: Bureau of Reclamation, 2006. Available from the Government Printing Office. Volume 2 will be published in December 2012/January 2013 and will also then be available.
•  United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation. The Bureau of Reclamation: History Essays from the Centennial Symposium, edited by Brit Allan Storey, 2 volumes. Denver: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008.
Order copies by phoning Andrew Gahan at (303) 445-3314 or e-mailing him at

1940 Census ReleasedThe 1940 was released on April 12, 2012, with free, online access at For additional information on the census, including the instructions to the enumerators and the questions that were asked, visit

New National Personnel Records Center. A new building in St. Louis now houses the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) and the National Archives at St. Louis. NPRC is the repository for the personnel records of former members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard as well as civilian employees of the federal government—holding files (about 9 billion pages) for an estimated total of 100 million individuals who served their country in the military or as a civilian. In the last two years, the National Archives has taken legal custody of more than 213,000 cubic feet of civilian personnel records (representing the service of millions of employees), created by more than 112 different federal agencies between 1850 and 1951. The center is the busiest National Archives facility, handling 5,000–6,000 requests a day for information from personnel files—about 1.5 million a year.

Electronic Records Archives (ERA) Ordered to Halt Development: The Electronic Records Archives (ERA) was ordered to stop further development by October 1, 2011. It will not be able to fulfill the grand plans officials had for it in 2001 when they envisioned it as an advanced preservation system that would store electronic records from all formats and make them accessible to researchers. The system, funded by Congress, was a response to the constantly increasing quantity and complexity of electronic records generated by government agencies and ultimately to be deposited in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For more information on the ERA, see A more extensive report is under our Archives and Electronic Records section.

The Department of State’s Office of the Historian Announces that the Proceedings of “The American Experience in Southeast Asia, 1946-1975” are Now Available Online: The Department of State’s Office of the Historian in the Bureau of Public Affairs convened a conference September 29-30, 2010, on U.S. policy and the war in Southeast Asia, 1946-1975, with special emphasis on the years of greatest American involvement in the conflict in Vietnam. Featured speakers at the conference included Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger and Ambassador John D. Negroponte, participants in the Vietnam policy process, and the late Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke. The conference showcased and commemorated the completion of the Indochina/Vietnam War documentary histories prepared by the Office of the Historian in the Foreign Relations of the United States series. In approximately 26 volumes, the Office of the Historian has printed over 24,500 pages of policy related documents. Transcripts and videos can be found on the Office of the Historian website.

U.S. Army Center of Military History Civil War Site: The U.S. Army Center of Military History recently launched a new Web page dedicated to commemorating U.S. Army operations in the Civil War as part of America’s Sesquicentennial commemoration of the War. The page is composed of a brief overview of the commemorative event, a timeline that lists significant actions, any published works that CMH has produced or archival material that it maintains, artwork and photographs, as well as a section with links to other organizations. As we mentioned during the Commemoration panel at the last SHFG Conference, CMH will be pleased to include additional links to other government organizations engaged in Civil War commemoration. If you are interested in linking your organization to CMH’s page, please contact Dr. Thomas Boghardt at Visitors may access the site by going to

Library of Congress: The Library’s Interpretive Programs Office has opened a new online exhibit titled “The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs from the Liljenquist Family Collection.” This collection features rare and candid images most of which have never been exhibited before. See