As former Sen. Max Baucus settles into his post as ambassador to China, the papers documenting his tenure in Congress – along with $850,000 in campaign funds – will go to the University of Montana’s growing collection of congressional records.
Baucus announced his donation on Thursday, one that includes nearly 40 years’ worth of papers, electronic communications and video files. It also includes what remains of his campaign funding – money to help establish and preserve the collection in perpetuity.
“It’s important to the state of Montana that he didn’t just throw these records in the trash, but recognized they have long-term historic significance,” said Donna McCrea, head of Archives and Special Collections at the Mansfield Library. “It’s a continuation of our collection of political papers, and it adds to the strength of that collection.”
When the Baucus papers are added to the files of those who served before him, the records will span more than a century of U.S. congressional history, reflecting both its deepest struggles and greatest triumphs, along with the insight of those who served in office.
The collection held by the Mansfield Library reaches back to Sen. Joseph M. Dixon, a progressive Republican appointed to the post by the Montana Legislature in 1907. While Dixon lost his bid for reelection, he went on to serve as Montana’s governor for three years in 1921.
The collection also includes the papers of Sen. James Murray, a Montana Democrat who held the seat from 1934 to 1961. Murray served alongside Mike Mansfield, a UM graduate who held seats in both the House and Senate from 1943 to 1977.
After retiring from the Senate, Mansfield was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the U.S. ambassador to Japan, a post he held until 1988. Baucus was appointed this year by President Barack Obama as ambassador to China.
“The Baucus papers and the fact that he’s now ambassador to China enhances the long-term potential and value of our research collection,” said McCrea. “We have over 100 years now of U.S. congressional and diplomatic history reflected in our archives.”
The Mansfield Library’s agreement with Baucus – one rumored to go back to his earliest days in office – also includes a push to establish an Institute for Public Policy and Service at the university’s School of Law.
“UM and our Law School have had a long and treasured relationship with Senator – and now ambassador – Baucus,” said Irma Russell, dean of the School of Law. “We are so grateful for the opportunity to extend this relationship to include preservation of his papers and the legacy the documents embody.”
Russell said the Law School will share the responsibility of keeping the records, and it will serve as the home for a Baucus Fellows Program. The school will work with Baucus and his wife, Melodee Hanes, to plan the institute and its focus on public service while collaborating with other academic colleges.
Once private funding is raised and approval is granted by the state Board of Regents, the effort would include an addition to the law school building, where the institute would be housed.
“The plans envision an institute centered on public service and economic development,” Russell said. “This is a particularly meaningful step for UM in recognition of its commitment to global connectedness and policy-based leadership.”
McCrea expects the materials to arrive this summer. It’s likely to include 1,000 boxes of paper material, several terabytes of electronic material, and 40 boxes of video material.
It’s currently being held at the National Archives.
“It’ll come to the Mansfield Library and become part of special collections,” McCrea said. “It’s a big collection for us. Our plan is to hire a political papers archivist, somebody 100 percent dedicated to working on and establishing this collection.”