Joint Statement on Selection Criteria for the Archivist of the United States
The Society of American Archivists
The National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators
The Council of State Historical Records Coordinators
April 26, 2004
The Archivist of the United States leads one of the most significant
non-partisan agencies of the United States government, the National Archives
and Records Administration (NARA). As custodian of the nation’s
essential legal and historical records, NARA performs a critical role
- Ensuring adequate documentation of the government’s actions
- Holding government officials and agencies accountable for public
- Safeguarding the rights and privileges of individual citizens as
well as many groups and communities of interest in society; and
- Preserving the cultural heritage and historical memory of government
for the best interests of all citizens.
The individual holding this
trust on behalf of the American people must hold the highest possible
confidence of the people in his/her
to fulfill these duties in an open, fair, and nonpartisan manner.
the announcement that Archivist of the United States John Carlin will
be stepping down and that President George W. Bush has nominated
Weinstein to be the next Archivist, the review of Professor Weinstein’s
qualifications for this position becomes a paramount concern. The next Archivist
must address both the leadership and management challenges at NARA and the
critical challenge of stewardship of the nation’s archival record in
rapidly changing electronic information environment. In order to ensure this
result, the nomination and confirmation process must conform to legal requirements
and must address concerns raised by professional archivists, records managers,
and historians concerning the person nominated to be Archivist of the United
The leadership of SAA, NAGARA, and COSHRC offer the following joint
recommendations on the selection of the next Archivist of the United States.
On April 8, 2004, the White House nominated Dr. Allen Weinstein
to become the next Archivist of the United States. Prior to the announcement,
consultation with professional organizations of archivists or historians. This
is the first time since the National Archives and Records Administration was
established as an independent agency in 1985 that the process of nominating
an Archivist of the United States has not been open for public discussion and
We believe that Professor Weinstein must—through appropriate and public
discussions and hearings—demonstrate his ability to meet the criteria
that will qualify him to serve as Archivist of the United States.
President Ronald Reagan signed the National Archives and Records Administration
Act of 1984 (Public Law 98-497), he said that, “the materials
that the Archives safeguards are precious and irreplaceable national treasures
and the agency that looks after the historical records of the Federal Government
should be accorded a status that is commensurate with its important responsibilities.” Earlier
in 1984, when the National Archives Act was being discussed, Senate Report
98-373 cautioned that if the Archivist was appointed “arbitrarily, or
motivated by political considerations, the historical records could be impoverished
P. L. 98-497 clearly states that, “The Archivist
shall be appointed without regard to political affiliations and solely on the
basis of the professional
qualifications required to perform the duties and responsibilities of the office
of Archivist.” In 1984, House Report 98-707 noted, “The committee
expects that [determining professional qualifications] will be achieved through
consultation with recognized organizations of archivists and historians.” The
law also states that when the Archivist is replaced, the President “shall
communicate the reasons for such removal to each House of Congress.” President
Bush has not given a reason for the change, and there is no evidence to suggest
that it is being made because of John Carlin’s resignation.
and COSHRC recommend to the President and the White House Personnel Office
- Endorse an open and transparent process for selecting, nominating,
and confirming the next Archivist of the United States.
- Present Professor Weinstein’s nomination to the Senate for
formal consideration and review.
- Ensure that the review and selection process is consistent with
the provisions of the National Archives Law (44 USC 2103), which indicates
that the Archivist’s
appointment must be made without regard to political affiliation and solely
on the basis of professional qualifications required to perform the responsibilities
SAA, NAGARA, and COSHRC call on the Senate Committee on Governmental
to schedule open hearings on this nomination in order to explore more fully:
reasons why the Archivist is being replaced, and
- Professor Weinstein’s qualifications to become Archivist of
the United States.
Suggested Selection Criteria
In evaluating the nomination of
Professor Allen Weinstein, or any other nominee, as the next Archivist
of the United States, SAA, NAGARA, and
COSHRC believe that the following qualifications are essential for this
important position of public trust:
Leadership and Advocacy
- Demonstrated ability to provide leadership and advocacy on behalf
of NARA’s dual role in preserving cultural heritage and in ensuring
that public records serve the purposes of evidence, accountability,
and authenticity in protecting the rights of all citizens.
- Demonstrated vision for the future of government archives and information
management, including development and implementation of information
policy and provision for the management of electronic records,
such as the Electronic
Records Archives project.
- Proven ability to articulate a compelling defense of informational
resources, and the importance of strong, impartial programs for their
management, to public officials, resource allocators, users, and
the general public.
- Proven ability as an administrator capable of managing an extensive
and diverse government agency with broad responsibilities, including
an ability to ensure effective implementation of NARA’s mandate
and efficiency and productivity in its operations and use of resources.
- Experience in working effectively with legislators, government officials,
trustees, and government and private resource allocators in
ways that ensure adequate support for programs, even in time of financial
- Experience in seeking the advice and counsel of constituent and
user groups, including professional associations, and in responding
to constituent needs.
- Commitment to working creatively with other offices of the federal
government, with state and local governments, and with other archival
including those in foreign countries, to effectively address shared
responsibilities and concerns.
Professional Knowledge and Values
- Demonstrated commitment to protecting the professional integrity
and political non-partisanship of NARA as a governmental agency in
carrying out its essential functions.
- Unquestioned commitment to open and equal access to governmental
records by all citizens, in accordance with all governmental regulations
and in compliance with privacy protections for individuals.
- Strong commitment to the principles of public ownership of governmental
records and to the goal of holding public leaders accountable
to the people through documentation and records of their actions.
Expertise and Reputation
- Knowledge and understanding of the critical issues confronting NARA
and the archival profession generally, especially the challenges of
information technology, and the competing demands of public access
records, privacy, homeland security, and ensuring the authenticity
and integrity of all public records.
- A reputation for excellence, leadership, and effectiveness within
the individual’s profession, including appropriate scholarly
credentials, and sufficient national stature to enable the
Archivist to be seen as
a leader by a wide range of constituent groups.