General » Blog Archive » A Visit to the Rayburn Building

The Walter Sidney Miller Household Musicians. Digitized with NEH funds.

Two weeks in the past I went to DC to have numerous meetings associated to my new position at George Washington University as Director of the Resilient Networks venture (about which more later). In early February, understanding I might be in DC for that objective in that first week of March, I emailed my House representative, Congressman Morgan Griffith, for an appointment to categorical to him my help of the NEH. He makes it quite straightforward, which I appreciated – he had a type on his web site for requesting an appointment, and his employees responded within a number of days to arrange a gathering for me in DC with the Congressman’s Legislative Correspondent, Elliott Silverman. On the advice of Virginia Tech’s Professor Tom Ewing, before I made the appointment I referred to as Virginia Tech’s Office of Government Relations to let them find out about my deliberate visit; they have been having a really busy week that week, what with the travel ban, but they too responded shortly and advised me that as long as I was going as a personal citizen and never as an official consultant of Virginia Tech, they didn’t need to be concerned.

There are things I might commerce the NEH for. I personally would surrender the NEH (and perhaps even the NEA, and the IMLS, and the Wilson Middle, and the Company for Public Broadcasting) for common well being care, for entrenched federal safety of civil liberties for LGBTQ residents, for insurance policies that welcome refugees and immigrants after an applicable amount of vetting, for something that retains Black individuals from being killed by the police, even for an infrastructure invoice that created hundreds of thousands of secure, good-paying jobs to build and restore things (as long as the proposed infrastructure to be built isn’t one thing as useless and offensive as That Wall). However I decided to advocate for the NEH not because it’s the most essential concern dealing with us in these weird days, however because it’s the one I know the most about. And that conceit of “trading” one federal program for an additional is only a fantasy: nobody is offering to make any such trade, and if anyone have been to supply, I wouldn’t consider them—I’d make sure that I’d hand over the NEH only to find that universal healthcare never materialized. Equally, I feel that those who propose to get rid of the NEH don’t achieve this in order to release the funds for other functions: it’s primarily a matter of principle, or precept (a kinder word than “ideology”). These rules hold that the federal authorities shouldn’t fund the arts and humanities and that the federal authorities ought to be smaller.

I don’t know whether or not strongly held rules could be dislodged by real-life instances: I think not, or not often, or solely over quite a lot of time. Suffice it to say that my rules hold that the federal authorities should undoubtedly dedicate just a little cash to supporting the arts and humanities and libraries and museums as well as to all the other things we ask it to help. It makes us seem to be a greater nation globally, and I feel it truly makes us a better nation. I’m also all for a more streamlined federal authorities, but when you’re going to ensmallen (a wonderfully cromulent word) the US authorities in any efficient means, it is best to in all probability start with the largest elements of it and not the smallest ones. Once you’re cleaning out the storage, you must begin by getting rid of the broken automotive and the damaged dishwasher and the broken bicycle and the broken leaf blower fairly than eliminating four toggle bolts.

In any case. On Wednesday, March 1st, I left an hour-long 1pm name with Toniesha Taylor at Prairie View A&M (certainly one of the partners on the Resilient Networks challenge) somewhat early to run and seize a cab throughout town from GWU’s Gelman Library over to the Rayburn Building.

Regardless that I had been cautious to e-book the assembly at 2:15pm as an alternative of 2pm, I was still operating just a little late (AS USUAL), so I despatched an e-mail to that impact with my telephone from the cab. It’s dreadful etiquette to be late, I do know, however I wasn’t really THAT late, and I relied on the kindness and humanity of the Congressman’s workplace to be understanding. Also, I figured if something, I used to be solely hurting myself (and probably the NEH), since I knew I’d solely have about 15 minutes to make my case. The cab ran into full gridlock in entrance of the constructing itself: looks like lots of people have been headed to the Rayburn Building. At about 2:14pm I used to be out of the cab and in entrance of the building, and I was grateful that the line via the metallic detector wasn’t very lengthy in any respect and was shifting briskly. I followed the indicators to room 2002, which didn’t take a look at all like the right room. About eight or ten younger staffers have been sitting at desks in a sort of bullpen, and I caught the eye of one who was free who was consuming one thing and had to finish chewing and swallowing earlier than she apologized for holding me ready (which in fact I didn’t thoughts at all, although I used to be still feeling anxious and rushed because I used to be late). I defined I used to be in search of Congressman Griffith’s Office, they usually seemed blankly at one another, at which level I rechecked my telephone and realized that I was on the lookout for room 2202 as an alternative and was at that moment intruding upon the time (and lunch) of parents in the Liaison Office for the Navy. They helpfully pointed me in the right course, so I finally bumbled my bumbling approach up to the right room by way of an exquisite marble-treaded stairway and made my presence recognized. This seemed extra like a congressman’s office, with a pair of reception desks in a sort of foyer, manned by a couple of young males in suits. (So lots of the individuals I met in the Rayburn constructing appeared so younger: mid-twenties or so. I keep in mind that phenomenon from dwelling in DC earlier than. Those that govern are sometimes of their mid-sixties at the least, however their staffs are all the time barely out of school, looks like. The individuals of their thirties and forties and fifties don’t even appear to work in government.) They have been chill about my tardiness, bless them, and I waited for simply a couple of minutes earlier than Mr. Silverman (additionally younger) came out to meet me. We shook arms and exchanged business cards, and then he took me into an enormous, very Congressional-looking workplace, with that typical DC décor of silk curtains and carpet and bookcases and Colonial furniture. There was a bag of Fritos on the Colonial couch, which he apologized for.

And then I went into my spiel, which is encapsulated on this one-page document, which I printed out and gave to Mr. Silverman:

The first thing I mentioned was that the NEH has given Virginia’s Ninth District almost two million dollars in direct funding in the final twenty years. Mr. Silverman appeared visibly stunned at that, which I took to be a great sign. Not all of it has gone to giant analysis universities like Virginia Tech, both, and far of it has gone to tasks that, I dare swear, even conservatives would approve of. Congressman Griffith has most lately been working arduous to retain a provision in the Reasonably priced Care Act (which otherwise he is eager to repeal) that advantages coal miners, making it pointless for them to submit in depth and burdensome documentation in help of claims associated to black lung, which definitely looks like a provision I can get behind. Understanding of Congressman Griffith’s help for coal miners, I made positive to point out the most just lately funded NEH undertaking in the district, which is a challenge at Radford University to protect historic pictures of their assortment of coal miners and their culture.


19th-century Inventory Certificate for the Virginia and Tennessee Rail Street Company. Digitized with NEH funds.

I’m afraid, but in addition fairly glad, that very early on in my fifteen-minute meeting at the Rayburn Building I ended advocating for the NEH and as an alternative began talking about the three high-resolution shade pictures I had printed out and hooked up to the one-pager. All three have been historic photographs introduced in to the Christiansburg Public Library last yr for digitization as part of the Montgomery County Memory undertaking initiated by Samantha Parish and funded by the NEH as a part of its Widespread Heritage program. I mean, a survey map of the region from 1795! How cool is that! I might by no means have expected someone to usher in one thing like that. Another of the three was the 1930s or 1940s photograph of a family of musicians that heads this publish, and the third was a nineteenth-century inventory certificates for the Virginia Tennessee Rail Street Company.

1795 Land Survey of Poor Mountain, Elliston, VA. Digitized with NEH funds.

Another encouraging signal from Mr. Silverman was that he took particular word of that survey map; he talked about that it’d nicely be from the very space the place Congressman Griffith grew up. He also closed our meeting by mentioning that he himself had studied the humanities: his LinkedIn profile reveals that he minored in U.S. History at Southern Methodist College.

None of those small indicators of encouragement essentially imply that Congressman Griffith will refuse to zero out the price range of the NEH, NEA, IMLS and comparable businesses, in fact. But his office was more than prepared to hear me out on the topic, which I appreciated. I’ve additionally heard from a couple of colleagues who participated in Humanities Advocacy Day earlier this week that there might be broad bipartisan help for retaining these businesses, and I take comfort from the information that just a few months ago Dr. Carla Hayden was confirmed as Librarian of Congress with bipartisan help.

Many people and organizations have been writing advocacy guides and statements of help this week. Right here’s a select record:

• “To Protect the Arts and Humanities, Go Local,” by Jason Rhody
• “Federal Cuts are About You and Me,” by Sheila Brennan
• “Statement on US Administration Proposal,” by Digital Library Federation Management
• Something by the Nationwide Humanities Alliance

In such a local weather of turmoil for the humanities, it appears boastful to suppose that anybody will care that I’ve a new place, but, sure, I’ve a brand new position, which is why I used to be in DC to begin with. I am directing the Resilient Networks challenge, a Mellon-funded challenge to create a help community for the digital humanities with 4 institutional companions: George Washington University (where I’m now an employee in the Libraries), Davidson School, Rice College, and Prairie View A&M. The venture is funded by the Mellon Foundation, so my new place is in no danger of disappearing, in contrast to some others I’d identify. I’ll add here that my reasons for leaving Virginia Tech have been primarily personal (mainly geographical): I’ve nothing however respect for the path Dean Tyler Walters is taking the library, and I’m sorry to depart a few of the tasks I had percolating there, not least my help position on Dr. Ed Gitre’s “American Soldier” undertaking to create a web-based full-text database the place college students and members of the public can read and transcribe tens of hundreds of descriptions by WWII troopers of their army and wartime experiences – a venture for which we collaborated on a proposal to the NEH’s Humanities Collections and Reference Assets program. I feel it was a wonderful proposal, absolutely deserving of funding. I hope the nation agrees with me.

Also revealed on Medium.