This blog post was written by Museum Studies graduate student Hadley Elrod.
Hi! My name is Hadley Elrod, and I am a second-year Museum Studies graduate student. For the 2021 spring semester, I decided to complete an independent study (a class equivalent) at the W. R. Poage Legislative Library. I plan to one day become a certified archivist, and I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to gain some hands-on experience. The goals of this project were to inventory, process, and create a finding aid for an archival collection.
The collection I processed consisted of papers from John E. Hogan, a military veteran and former legal counsel to several U.S. House committees. Hogan grew up on a farm in Minnesota and later graduated from the University of Minnesota. He then joined the U.S. Navy in 1950, serving time in the Korean War.
In 1957, Hogan moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked in different legal positions while earning three more degrees in law and business administration. In 1969, he began his tenure as a committee staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives, first serving with the Committee on the District of Columbia (1969-1975) and later with the Committee on Agriculture (1975-1998).
The John E. Hogan papers consist primarily of agriculture-related documents including farm bills, crop subsidies, and legal research. The research dates back decades, as early as the 1910s. Other documents in the collection deal with the environment, addressing the use of pesticides and the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency. Also included are records dealing with federal laws and trade, particularly concerning the North American Free Trade Agreement. Finally, there is a small group of materials that deal with the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.
While the materials in this collection could be dry at times, it was interesting to catch a glimpse into the process that Congress must go through to develop and pass legislation. For example, the 1995 Farm Bill required research on previous farm bills, correspondence between various legislators, and debates that the different members of the Committee on Agriculture participated in. While arguments could be made against the time-consuming nature of this bureaucracy, the process does help ensure multiple voices and opinions are heard.
Overall, this project was an interesting experience that allowed me to perform some of the same work an archivist does on a day-to-day basis. The largest part of this project was the processing phase, where I went through each folder to determine an appropriate title, document type, and year range. This is also where I was able to actually read through some of the documents and see the legislative process. If anyone thinks they may be interested in archival or library work, then I would highly recommend volunteering or completing a project at the W. R. Poage Legislative Library!