While today’s news included a historic appointment at the Library of Congress, it also included local news that the New England Archivists believes demands immediate action.
The good news first. The library that has served our Congress and has acted as our national repository is now to be led by Dr. Carla D. Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress, as well as the first woman and first African American to hold the post. Our libraries are reflections of their communities, and it is critical that American communities see themselves in the collections and spaces that our libraries, archives, and museums provide.
Now the bad news. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker vetoed the Legislature's proposed Massachusetts Cultural Council budget and slashed arts funding by 55%. This cut would fund the creative community at $6.5 million, a level not seen since 1994. Last Friday, Governor Baker also vetoed 100% of spending on Massachusetts Center for the Book in FY2017, effectively shutting its doors.
We need to send a strong message quickly to our Governor that the cuts will directly impact our collective efforts to represent and document all people, including those whose stories are often left out of the record. We can do this today by writing to our representatives (see links below) or appealing to the Governor directly.
Governor Baker’s vetoes include Massachusetts Center for the Book line item:
Governor Proposes Devastating Cuts to Arts & Culture via Veto:
Let's override Gov. Baker's arts veto – MASSCREATIVE Action Center:
I have no doubt that the pressure on the Governor to support critical infrastructures across the Commonwealth led to these decisions. Yet, the arts and our cultural heritage resources, including our libraries, archives, and museums, are essential to our communities and for creating an inclusive and anti-racist world. Here is a personal story of how archives and museums and libraries do this.
Two weeks ago I went to the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island, New York. There I could learn about, see, and feel what some of our immigrant ancestors went through to gain entry into this country. Through the photographs, oral histories, and letters, preserved and on display, I could grasp the justices and the injustices, as some were granted access that others were denied. With anguish, I also saw the barriers that prevented some from ever stepping foot on American soil. As today’s refugees seek safety and opportunity, and our own contemporary multicultural world sometimes forgets why, and how easily, humans institutionalize unjust barriers to liberty, it is our libraries, archives, and museums that remind us—that provide the vital evidence to inform our narrative of the past and for the future. Our cultural heritage institutions are the foundation of our democracy.
Please help the New England Archivists support the Library of Congress’ new leadership, and encourage our government to fund crucial access to information, and history.
Yours in earnest,
Jennifer Gunter King, President
New England Archivists