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Highlights Archives

Society Gets Congressman David Obey Papers


Helmut Knies, the Society's collection development coordinator, leafs through some of the 750 cubic feet of papers in the David Obey Papers

Retired Wisconsin 7th District Congressman David Obey has donated his papers to the people of his home state through a unique partnership formed by the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service. The papers, which document the influential lawmaker's entire 41-year career in the House of Representatives, will be made available to the people of Wisconsin and researchers worldwide.

Papers Will Reside in 7th Congressional District

After Historical Society archivists organize the collection, the papers will reside in the Society's Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, the research center closest to Obey's base in Wausau. The public will also enjoy access to the papers at the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service at the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County campus in Wausau.

When Obey announced in May 2010 that he would not seek re-election, numerous universities and research institutions asked to be considered as a custodian for his papers. Wisconsin Historical Society archivists and Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service researchers developed a proposal to assure Obey that his papers would be catalogued, preserved and made available to the public. The large collection arrived at the Society in January, where it will join those of other important Wisconsin political figures, including Gaylord Nelson, William Proxmire and Melvin Laird, whom Obey succeeded as 7th District Congressman in 1969.

Documenting Four Decades of Congressional Service

The papers include correspondence, records of policy discussions, photos, and video and audio recordings that thoroughly document more than four decades of Obey's congressional service. As chairman or ranking member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee since 1994, and as chairman of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee during pivotal international changes, Obey wielded tremendous influence over federal budget priorities and became well known for his adept handling of legislation that benefitted Wisconsin and his home district.

Archivists estimate that the process of arranging, describing and cataloging the collection will take 18 months. The long-range plan for the collection includes digitizing select items to make them available online. The Society and the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service will spearhead a campaign to raise public and private funds needed to cover the cost of archiving the collection and making it available to researchers and the general public.

:: Posted March 10, 2011

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