By Jim Havron, Archivist and Oral History Projects Coordinator
Although it is a bit hot and humid in Columbia, South Carolina at this time of the year, it was still a pleasure for me to attend the 11th annual meeting of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC) at the University of South Carolina last week. The Albert Gore Research Center (AGRC), by virtue of its collections, programming, educational outreach, and collaborative work with other organizations, is an institutional member of the ACSC. I was able to attend as its representative. The meeting allowed me to share information about the activities of the AGRC with colleagues as well as learn what others are doing to preserve, present, and study the history of Congress and related activities and events.
The event was held at the new Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library building, which hosts the library and the extensive South Carolina Political Collections. It is an impressive facility and the staff there have done much to promote the retention and use of political materials. Exhibits not only included displays highlighting papers of individuals, but also a small display showing an “in a nutshell” view of the basic processing of materials. This display allows staff to better explain the process to potential donors.
Talks came from former members of Congress, former congressional chiefs of staff, campaign managers, researchers, authors, archivists and librarians. We heard of experiences with extending the boundaries of outreach and education, collection development, ideas regarding the future of political collections, and how to enhance the researchers’ experience by providing access information to collections that may relate to the material in a set of political papers, but are not part of the same collection (bridge collections.) Practically all the talks in some way emphasized the importance of building and maintaining relationships beyond the walls of our institutions. These relationships are what help preserve the papers of members of Congress, get the papers to an appropriate repository, make the most of outreach, and offer the best experience to researchers.
The relationships maintained between members of ACSC provided a forum to share ideas and experiences in a way that may be of benefit to any of the attendees. All in all, an interesting and productive meeting that left me with some new ideas and topics of further thought.
For Twitter fans, several of us tweeted from the meeting, sharing short highlights of talks. You may follow our Twitter feed, @AGRCatMTSU, and the ACSC social media includes @congresscenters. Most tweets were hash-tagged #congresscenters, should it be of interest.