In October 2016, the Clerk’s Office of the U.S. House of Representatives launched Records Search on the History, Art & Archives website. The website is a collaborative project between the Office of the House Historian and the Clerk’s Office of Art and Archives.
Users can explore a selection of records—from the everyday to the extraordinary—of the committees and officers of the U.S. House of Representatives using Records Search. The will of the people, the history of the country, the work of the U.S. House of Representatives—each can be traced in the documents that compose the institution’s official records. House records reflect how citizens and their elected representatives address, advocate, and legislate for important issues.
Each entry in Records Search has basic information about the record and a brief description that places it in institutional and historical context. Other features include:
- Each state and U.S. territory has at least one document related to its history
- Never-before-seen documents are available from the holdings of the House of Representatives
- PDFs of records can be downloaded and are searchable (when possible), facilitating classroom use
- Hi-res images of the documents with zoom capability allow close examination and analysis of each document
- Related subjects make it easy to find records about the same topic
- Related links provide additional context for the records and connections with content on the rest of the site
- Regular additions of new content keep the site fresh and encourage future exploration and discovery
The records of the House featured in Records Search add unique context to the exhibits, collections, publications, oral histories, and educational resources on the History, Art & Archives website. For example, in 2016, the House celebrates the centennial of the election of Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress. In Records Search, users can see her 1916 certificate of election and legislation she introduced to protect mothers and infants.
The House also recently marked the 50th anniversaries of the 1963 March on Washington and the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Records Search features a photograph of a school used to register voters and a copy of the pamphlet for the March on Washington kept by the Committee on Un-American Activities. Records Search also features documents that clarify the seemingly more ordinary and obscure aspects of the institution. A 1978 Whip advisory illuminates the role of the Whip in guiding legislation. A handwritten entry in the House Journal from 1789 documents the importance of institutional record keeping. A version of the Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Relief Act shows one point in the often complicated and circuitous process of making a bill into a law.
One of my favorite documents is a letter from Enos Mills, a noted naturalist, to Representative Lindley Hadley, petitioning him to make Mt. Baker in Washington State a national park. The letter was tucked among the hundreds of petitions related to the creation of a National Park Service in the records of the Committee on Public Lands. Mills wrote in evocative and passionate language about the landscape and his desire for a national park. The letter shows how something as routine as correspondence can encapsulate the larger issues the country has faced since its founding.
Using Records Search, the general public can make powerful personal connections to the history of the House of Representatives, teachers can use the primary sources to inspire curiosity in students, and researchers can discover new avenues for study. Explore Records Search to find more engaging and remarkable records of the U.S. House of Representatives.