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John Y. Cole, Founding Director, Center for the Book and Historian, Library of Congress, retired

The Society is pleased to honor Dr. John Y. Cole as the 2024 Trask Awardee, in recognition of his innumerable contributions to federal history over the course of his fifty-five-year career at the Library of Congress.

Award for Special Service to the Historic Profession

The Save America's Treasures grant program has for 25 years directly assisted nationally significant museum collections and historic resources to comply and maintain the Secretary of Interior Standards as established by the National Historic Preservation Act. Through the grant funding, these resources continue to be the best examples of our rich, shared history. Through SAT the profession of historic preservation is enriched, ensuring jobs through the requirement that all work be performed by individuals and firms that meet the highest preservation qualifications. 

Award for Initiatives in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility

Melissa Jane Taylor has been a primary driver inside the Department of State behind efforts to research, understand, and draw thoughtful lessons from the often-sobering history of diversity and inclusion in the Foreign Service, the Department of State, and the U.S. government as a whole. She has consistently championed efforts to research the context of both major successes and major setbacks in efforts to promote values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility over the 235-year history of the Department of State.

Taylor recently completed a yearlong research fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations, during which time she followed several previously unexplored avenues into the history of the diverse individuals who have worked for, protested, or changed the Department of State. She has an unparalleled understanding of the complexity of historical U.S. government personnel records, how individuals have described their identities in the past, and how those categories have changed over time. She is interested in all aspects of the DEIA history of the Department and the U.S. government and has worked for years to make that research the main part of her portfolio. The fact that her main work portfolio is now to research and explain the DEIA history of the Department of State is a testament to the importance of the work, the broad demand for that type of knowledge, and her persistence.


M. Todd Bennett has focused on studying the history of U.S. intelligence throughout his career, and his research for Neither Confirm Nor Deny: How the Glomar Mission Shielded the CIA from Transparency dates to his time working on the relevant Foreign Relations of the United States volumes, particularly National Security Policy, 1973–1976, as an historian with the U.S. Department of State. The book’s topic is likely to appeal to a general and scholarly audience, and the work’s combination of quality primary research and clear presentation are deserving of this year’s member award.


Neither Confirm Nor Deny: How the Glomar Mission Shielded the CIA from Transparency by M. Todd Bennett examines the history of the CIA’s mission to retrieve K-129, a sunken Soviet submarine. The book argues the mission played a key role in limiting the calls for greater transparency and oversight for the CIA that came out of the “Year of Intelligence,” (1975), when a series of revelations led to greater scrutiny of American intelligence activities.

Like much of intelligence history, the book’s topic posed research challenges due to the shroud of government secrecy surrounding it. Bennett has made exceptional use of available primary sources and been clear about the limitations of those sources. The Glomar mission was ambitious, costly, and took years. Bennett adeptly traces policymakers’ decisions about the project throughout these years, during which much about global and domestic politics changed. Bennett clearly and consistently explains how the shifting political climate shaped the history of the mission and ultimately how CIA and executive branch officials’ handling of media discovery of the mission contributed to a backlash against greater calls for intelligence transparency.


Labor Secretary Frances Perkins Reorganizes Her Department’s Immigration Enforcement Functions, 1933–1940: “Going against the Grain” by Neil Hernandez is an innovative article that provides a window onto an understudied area of U.S. history, giving valuable insight into how bureaucratic processes and rulemaking shape the ways that agencies function. It focuses on topics that are often discounted for being less than dramatic, but Hernandez makes a compelling case that the everyday work of managing the Department of Labor’s budget and procedures nonetheless indelibly shaped the history of immigration. In addition, the article makes excellent use of government sources to present statistical data.


The National Park Service History Collection at Harpers Ferry, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, created content spanning many different digital products—an innovating virtual tour of their artifact collection, an artifact driven history series (50 Nifty Finds), and an engaging story map of a 1923 cross-country trip featuring visits to many NPS sites (Keeping up with the Johnsons). The products cover themes such as equality and diversity, resource management, discovery, art, material culture, and administrative history. Most importantly, the project is a successful demonstration of how a federal history office can celebrate its own past with a critical eye while simultaneously showing how the federal government interacts with public life in an accessible way.

Historic Preservation and Exhibitions Award

The National Environmental Museum and Education Center of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, previously located on the Mezzanine Level of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, was once difficult to access. But U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staff were able to secure funding to acquire 1,600 square feet of space in the William Jefferson Clinton North Building to make a transformed museum. The EPA renovated the space extensively to make the museum more friendly and accessible to guests. Curators added a mobile lab, AV screens that show 75 videos, exhibits that contain oral histories from people involved in making environmental policy, and artifacts such as a pen used to sign the Clean Air Act Amendment. 


Society for History in the Federal Government
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