Brent Glass: Retires as Director of Smithsonian’s American History Museum


Dr. Brent Glass has announced he is leaving his position as director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History effective July 10; he will continue at the Smithsonian as a senior advisor through the end of this year.

Glass has served as director of the museum since 2002 and overseen the most extensive renovation of the museum in its history, the conservation of the Star-Spangled Banner and the installation of major new exhibitions on transportation, maritime history, military history and first ladies’ gowns.

The Museum of American History is the third-busiest museum in the Smithsonian complex with more than 4 million visitors in 2010. It has a staff of 250, an annual federal budget of about $30 million and about 3 million artifacts. During Glass’ tenure, the museum has raised more than $60 million from individuals, foundations and corporations.
During Glass’ tenure at the museum the building underwent an $85 million renovation that took nearly 2½ years. When it reopened in November 2008, it included an entirely new core with a dramatic skylight and glass staircase opening up the atrium and a new exhibition of the Star-Spangled Banner. Glass considers the renovation of the core of the building, completed in 2008, to be the highlight of his nine years at the Smithsonian.

Before joining the Smithsonian, Glass served for 15 years (1987–2002) as executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in Harrisburg, Pa., which included 25 sites. He oversaw major expansion and renovation projects at several historic sites and museums around the state and led an effort to conserve the Pennsylvania Charter and other important documents and artifacts.

He earned his doctorate in philosophy and history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his master’s degree in American Civilization at New York University and a bachelor’s degree at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.

An acting director for the museum will be appointed in July. Glass will serve as Senior Advisor to the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture. A national search for a new director for the museum will begin immediately, headed up by Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture with the assistance of an executive search firm.

Francois Furstenberg: What History Teaches Us About the Welfare State

Source: The Muskegon Chronicle, 7-5-11

In the wake of the economic crash, which has led to soaring budget deficits, Democrats and Republicans are negotiating “to move forward to trillions of spending cuts,” as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said recently. A report from House Speaker John Boehner’s office called for “eliminating government agencies and programs” and “reducing transfer payments to households.” These changes would result in unprecedented reductions in the size of the welfare state and the American social compact as it developed over the last century.

Lost in this debate is an appreciation of the historical origins of the American welfare state — long before FDR and the New Deal, after another epochal financial crash.

Much like our time, the Gilded Age was an era of economic booms and busts. None was greater than the financial crisis that began in September 1873 with the collapse of Jay Cooke (ampersand) Co., the nation’s premier investment bank. Like many other firms, Cooke (ampersand) Co. overextended itself by offering risky loans based on overvalued real estate.

Cooke’s collapse launched the first economic crisis of the Industrial Age. For 65 straight months, the U.S. economy shrank — the longest such stretch in U.S. history. America’s industrial base ground to a near halt: By 1876, half of the nation’s railroads had declared bankruptcy, almost half of the country’s iron furnaces were shut and coal production collapsed. Until the 1930s, it would be known as the Great Depression.

In the face of economic calamity and skyrocketing unemployment, the government did, well, nothing. No federal unemployment insurance eased families’ suffering and kept a floor on demand. No central bank existed to fight deflation. Large-scale government stimulus was a thing of the distant future.

As demand collapsed, businesses slashed payrolls and reduced wages, and a ruinous period of deflation began. By 1879, wholesale prices had declined 30 percent. The consequences were catastrophic for the nation’s many debtors and set off a vicious economic cycle. When economic growth eventually began, progress was slow, with periodic crises plaguing the economy through the end of the century.

Neither political party offered genuine solutions. As historian Richard Hofstadter put it, political parties during the Gilded Age “divided over spoils, not issues,” and neither Democrats nor Republicans were inclined to challenge their corporate masters.

“There are two things that are important in politics,” Republican political operative Mark Hanna famously said in 1895. “The first is money and I can’t remember what the second one is.”

With laissez-faire ideas dominant and the political system in stasis, economic decline persisted. The collapse in tax revenue only strengthened calls for fiscal retrenchment. Government at all levels cut spending. Congress returned the country to the gold standard for the first time since the Civil War: “hard money” policies that favored Eastern financiers over indebted farmers and workers.

With neither major party responding to the crisis, new insurgent movements arose: antimonopoly coalitions, reform parties and labor candidates all began to attract support. Writer Henry George, running for mayor of New York, decried the “speculative” gains of financial barons and the monopolists who appropriated “unearned” profits….READ MORE

Dr. Peter Shulman: NARA Names First Recipient of Legislative Archives Fellowship


History Buzz

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero has announced the appointment of Dr. Peter Shulman as the recipient of the 2011 Legislative Archives Research Fellowship.

“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Shulman to the National Archives as the first recipient of this generous fellowship funded by the Foundation for the National Archives. His appointment grows out of our commitment on many different levels to foster research and inquiry into the historical records of Congress housed in the National Archives Center for Legislative Archives. We look forward to having him share the results of his research with the community at large,” said Mr. Ferriero.

Dr. Shulman’s research will focus on a reinterpretation of 19th and early 20th century American foreign relations. He is exploring the complex interplay between technological change, the rise of fossil fuels, and the emergence of the United States as a global power. His research will expand on his 2007 dissertation, “Empire of Energy: War, Environment, and Geopolitics before the Age of Oil,” in which Dr. Shulman made extensive use of the collections at the National Archives.

Dr. Shulman studies technology, science, and American politics in the 19th and 20th centuries, with special interests in the history of energy, environmental history, communication and transportation, and the history of American foreign relations. As an Assistant Professor of History at Case Western Reserve University, he teaches courses in the history of technology, energy and the environment, historical methods, and contemporary history.

As part of the fellowship, Dr. Shulman will make an initial presentation to National Archives staff and local historians concerning the proposed plan of work, and a second presentation on research findings in the first quarter of 2012.

Debra Wall: Appointed Deputy Archivist of the United States


History Buzz

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero recently announced the appointment of Debra Steidel Wall as Deputy Archivist of the United States, effective July 3, 2011.

Ms. Wall is a twenty-year veteran of the National Archives. For the past four years she has served as Chief of Staff, providing exceptional leadership and effective management for the agency. She has been actively involved in creating and implementing the “Charter for Change,” the roadmap for the transformation of the National Archives.

As Deputy Archivist, Ms. Wall will be instrumental in achieving the goals of the transformation. An early priority will be helping to build new leadership into effective executive and management teams. She will also assist the Archivist in achieving an open and inclusive work environment; encouraging creativity and investing in innovation.

Prior to serving as Chief of Staff, Ms. Wall was Senior Special Assistant to the Archivist from 2005-2007. In 2000, she was appointed Director of the Lifecycle Coordination Staff, where she led staff responsible for developing policies, processes, systems and standards relating to the life cycle of records. She has also served as the initial manager of the Archival Research Catalog database and other information technology projects, as Deputy Director of the Information Resources Policy and Projects Division, and worked as an archivist in the Motion Picture, Sound, and Video unit. Debra joined the National Archives in 1991 as an archivist trainee and holds an undergraduate degree in history and government from Georgetown University, and a graduate degree in film from the American University.

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