Roe Submits Testimony on District of Columbia Archives

District of Columbia
Committee of the Whole
Hearing on the Budget for the Office of the Secretary
Chair:  Phil Mendelson
Wednesday, April 15, 2015 


Written Testimony Submitted by
Kathleen D. Roe
President, Society of American Archivists


The Society of American Archivists (SAA), founded in 1936, is North America’s oldest and largest national archival association. SAA has more than 6,200 members, including a large number who work and live in the District of Columbia.  

Since 2003 SAA leaders have expressed through letters and testimony our serious concern about the importance of the District having a strong records management and archives program.  This includes attention to electronic records, a state-of-the-art facility, and appropriate staffing and resources to ensure timely and effective management of the records created by the DC government.

The District has, and continues to create, essential evidence documenting the functions of its government.   These records are critical to ensuring government transparency, preserving the evidence of individual civil and property rights, and supporting the District’s government in the ongoing conduct of its legal and fiscal business.  Records are the tangible infrastructure of good government, and they require timely and effective management to ensure their survival and accessibility in serving the people’s business.

The District’s records also reflect more than 220 years of political, economic, social, and cultural history.   Some are of iconic individuals and events, such as the birth certificate for jazz legend Edward “Duke” Ellington and the wills of President James Monroe, Red Cross founder Clara Barton, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.   Many more comprise a rich resource that gives voice to the people of the District, those who were born, worked, paid taxes, voted, were schooled, or were incarcerated there. 

SAA encourages the Council to maintain the $44 million already in the budget to build a state-of-the-art building for the DC Archives and Records Center, and strongly recommends that adequate funding be provided in future budgets to support the staff of the DC Archives and Records Center in their task of ensuring that the records and the history of the District of Columbia government are protected now and in the future.