Monday, February 29, 2016

Legislative Research: Archival Collections

Gov. Foster Furcolo in 1960.
Photograph from the Foster Furcolo
Papers (Ms. Coll. 86) 
Depending on where and how far your legislative research takes you, the research process may involve searching for materials that supplement the official published documents housed in the State Library.  This often requires visiting other institutions and looking at archival collections relevant to the information you are seeking, and it’s important to be aware of what’s available out there.  Here are some examples that should be kept in mind the next time you research legislation:
  • Committee files:  When a bill is assigned to a legislative committee and goes through a public hearing, committee staff will often compile a bill folder that includes submitted testimony.  The folder is retained throughout the legislative session by the committee; however its ultimate disposition varies.  Many of these records are deposited at the State Archives for permanent retention.  If you are unable to find the hearing records or other committee files you are looking for, it’s important to contact the relevant committee to determine where they are housed.
  • Governor’s legislative files:  These files include those produced by the Governor’s Legislative and Legal Counsel staff members and can provide background information on legislation from the perspective of the Executive Branch.  Recent records can be accessed by contacting the Governor’s Legislative Office; earlier records (starting in 1964) are housed at the State Archives.  In addition, the executive records of Massachusetts governors (1802-present) are also at the Archives.  For more information visit:
  • Legislative (or “Bill”) packages:  These are the original manuscript records compiled for each bill (aka proposed legislation).  Passed legislation is filed by its act chapter number, while unpassed legislation is filed by final bill numbers.  More recent (past 10 years or so) packages are housed at the Secretary’s Regulations and Publications Division; earlier packages can be found at the State Archives.
  • Papers of elected officials:  The State Library collects records of Massachusetts legislators. The collections, which span from the early 20th through 21st centuries, include those of Calvin Coolidge, Andrew Natsios, Lois Pines, Foster Furcolo, and Barbara Gray.  These collections contain little personal material and primarily include records relating to legislation, issues of concern to the legislator, and constituents.  Finding aids to these collections can be accessed in the library’s DSpace digital repository.  Records (or manuscript) collections such as these may be deposited at other institutions as well; ArchiveGrid is a useful tool to use to help track them down.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department