Thanks to long-standing austerity measures, mindless government bashing and its attending budget cuts, and intrinsic American anti-intellectualism and allergies to history, the National Archives has been forced for a number of years now to panhandle for funding through a private charity, the Foundation for the National Archives. This is particularly appalling because by all sane measures, the National Archives is one of the most effective, useful, necessary, and efficient government agencies out there. I have and continue to do extensive research with NARA records and I have never encountered anything other than fast, polite, and otherwise stellar services from all elements of that agency. Frankly, what little Americans know about history can, in my opinion, be almost entirely credited to the folks at the National Archives.
This year’s pitch is particularly sad as the Foundation for the National Archives is seeking funds for the National Archives Genealogy Fair which will teach interested folks about, “records relating to the military, immigration, court, census, land, African Americans, Native Americans, and Canadian border crossings,” among other things. In short, the Foundation for the National Archives is forced to supplicate for the funds necessary to accomplish its core mission and responsibilities: inform Americans about itself and its missions teach Americans how to use its records, and educate Americans about their history and heritage.
Don’t get me wrong. I support their work. Since the American right has decided to neglect this aspect of governance, the National Archives is forced to seek private sector support. However, government spending via fundraiser is going to lead us to a dark place because, after all, “The Friends of OSHA or “The Foundation for EPA” are not going to draw many donors.