About The Centerhttp://www.dirksencenter.org
The Center promotes a greater public understanding of the U.S. Congress through archival, research, and educational programs.
For more than 50 years, The Dirksen Congressional Center’s educational and research programs have helped tens of thousands of Americans better understand the U.S. Congress—its people, procedures, and the public policies it produces. The Center holds nearly 200 archival collections, including the papers of every U.S. Representative from central Illinois’s 18th congressional district (and its predecessors) since 1933. The Center has awarded over $1,000,000 in grants to nearly 500 scholars conducting research about Congress since 1978 and an additional $850,000 for such special projects as publications, conferences, workshops, and directed research. The Center’s websites are visited by more than XX people annually—teachers looking for lesson plans about Congress, students eager to explore our Congress for Kids site, and researchers who consult a vast array of digitized historical documents.
Chartered in 1963, The Center is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, private foundation located in Pekin, Illinois, the home of the late Everett McKinley Dirksen (1896-1969). Dirksen served on the Pekin City Council (1927-1931), in the U.S. House of Representatives (1933-1949), and in the U.S. Senate (1951-1969) as its Minority Leader (1959-1969).
Voices of Experience
"The Dirksen Congressional Center has been a wonderful and indispensable addition to the community of scholars interested in congressional history. The Center has offered financial support that scholars need to conduct research into the legislative branch, while it has been instrumental to the organization of conferences, workshops, web-based initiatives, and teaching programs that greatly further our knowledge of congressional history."
~ Julian E. Zelizer (ed.), The American Congress: The Building of Democracy (New York, NY: Houghton-Mifflin, 2004) xi
“It is also important to note that [the Congressional Research Grants] Program is a vital source of support for types of research not generally funded by organizations such as the National Science Foundation. While Dirksen award amounts are relatively small, they very powerfully combine with other small funding streams (for example, the typically small grants given to faculty by their academic institutions) to render otherwise impossible projects possible.”
~ Laura S. Jensen, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, (Congressional Research Grant recipient, 2005)
"During the 1960s, Everett Dirksen emerged as the leading voice of those who objected to the Supreme Court's reapportionment rulings, namely the series of decisions that established the principle of "one person, one vote" in all congressional and state legislative apportionments. I arrived at the Dirksen Center with high hopes of learning more about Dirksen's views on the subject, but never imagined that I would find such a wealth of amazing materials. I literally discovered thousands of pages of correspondence, memoranda, and reports that shed important light not only on Dirksen's role in the reapportionment battles, but also on the broader campaign to call a constitutional convention to modify the Court's rulings. My understanding of the topic has been immeasurably enhanced by the chance to have worked in the Dirksen Papers. I am deeply grateful to the Dirksen Center for the financial support that allowed me to do such critical research."
~ J. Douglas Smith, 2007, and author of On Democracy’s Doorstep: The Inside Story of How the Supreme Court Brought “One Person, One Vote” to the United States (New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 2014)
“Frank Mackaman at the Dirksen Congressional Center in Pekin, Illinois, is a peerless one-man band, a veteran archival librarian and the reigning expert in all things Ev. His monograph on Dirksen’s role in the bill was never far from my side, and I am everlastingly grateful for his help ….”
~ Todd S. Purdum, An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2014) 380
The bylaws of the Everett McKinley Dirksen Endowment Fund, adopted November 14, 1963, describe the organization's mission as follows:
"To finance and maintain the creation of a wing of the City Library of Pekin, Illinois, to house, display, and preserve the public letters, books, records, pictures, medals, and other materials associated with the public service of Everett McKinley Dirksen as citizen, soldier, and public servant; and to make such endowments for the study and dissemination of the art and science of public service as shall seem fitting."
In April 1989, the Board of Directors expressed the current mission in these words:
"The Everett McKinley Dirksen Congressional Leadership Research Center is a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational institution whose mission is to help people better understand the U.S. Congress and its leaders."
October 1999 summary of The Center's essence
Innovative ideas and activities.
Remembering the ideals of Everett Dirksen.
Keeping ahead with technology.
Striving for excellence in
Educational, archival, and research programs.
Networking to find partners to further our mission.
Committed to maintaining quality service.
Exploring opportunities across the
Nation and within our community.
Teaching others about Congress and civics.
Encouraging learning through workshops, web sites, and awards.
Respected by those we teach and reach!
The Dirksen Congressional Center will be an organization of choice for the study, interpretation, teaching, and discussion of the U.S. Congress.
Board of Directors and Senior Advisers, 2015-2016
Barbara Drake, writer and editor, Peoria, IL
Carla J. Schaefer, Director of Business Operations, Pekin Community High School, Pekin, IL
Carol Merna, Executive Director, The Center for Prevention of Abuse, Pekin, IL
Christopher Deverman, Graphic Designer, Deverman Advertising, Pekin, IL
David E. Glassman, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Bradley University, Peoria, IL
Ed Whitaker, Independent Financial Advisor, Tremont First Financial Services, Tremont, IL
Greg Cassidy, Senior Vice President of Program Services, TCRC Inc., Tremont, IL
Kay Sutton, Dean, Public Services, Community Outreach, ICC North and South Campuses, Illinois Central College, Peoria, IL
Kimberly Remmert, Director of Human Resources, Pekin Insurance Company, Pekin, IL
Leslie K. Weyhrich, CPA and Partner, Wolf, Tesar & Company, P.C., Pekin, IL
Lincoln C. Hobson, Tazewell County Circuit Clerk, Morton, IL
Louis E. Miller, Attorney, Bagley & Miller Attorneys, Pekin, IL
Timmothy J. Schwartz, Dentist, Pekin, IL
Louis Miller, President
Hon. Ray LaHood, DLA Piper, Washington, DC
Hon. Robert H. Michel, Hogan Lovells US LLP, Washington, DC
National Advisory Council
Jeffrey Bernstein, Professor of Political Science, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI
C. Lawrence Evans, Professor of Government, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA
KC Johnson, American History Professor, Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center, Brooklyn, NY
Ray Smock, Director, Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education
Sheryl Vogt, Center for Excellence in Public Leadership, Washington, DC
Nancy Beck Young, Department of History, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Julian Zelizer, Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Frank H. Mackaman
Contact for information about Congressional Research Awards, Ray and Kathy LaHood Scholarships for the Study of American Government, historical collections, and overall operations.
Contact for information about the Web suite, technology issues, and marketing and promotion.
Primary responsibility for general office operations.
The Dirksen Center's History: Selected Milestones
McKinley Dirksen Endowment Fund received its Certificate of Incorporation under the General Not for Profit CorporationAct.
|1973||The Dirksen Congressional Center and the Pekin Public Library agree to build a new facility.|
|1975||The Center's exhibit hall opened to nearly 4,000 visitors in its first year.|
|1976||The Dirksen Center Guild formed.|
|1978-79||The Center received an endowment grant of $2.5 million from the U.S. Congress,and over $100,000 from private foundations for program expansion.|
|1980||Center sponsors the first national conference on congressional leadership, resulting in Understanding Congressional Leadership: The State of the Art (Congressional Quarterly Press, 1982).|
|1981||In June, The Center awarded its first Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for Distinguished Reporting of Congress.|
|1984||The newly renovated exhibit, "Congress: The Voice of the People" opened.|
|1985||The Center joined with the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to sponsor the Congressional Papers Conference in Harpers Ferry.|
|1987||The Ford Foundation awarded $150,000 to The Center for a long-term study of congressional leadership.|
|1989||Robert H. Michel designated The Center as the repository for his congressional papers. The Center also awarded its 100th Congressional Research Grant.|
|1990||Former Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield received The Center's first Award for Meritorious Service to Congress.|
|1992||The first Congress in the Classroom summer workshop for teachers was hosted by The Center, in cooperation with Bradley University.|
|1994||The Congress, through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, awarded The Center a $2 million, four-year grant for the Robert H. and Corinne Michel Congressional Education Fund.|
|1995||"Leaders of the House Over Two Centuries," a conference sponsored by The Center, took place in Washington, DC.|
|1996||The centennial observance of Everett Dirksen's birth led to a renovated exhibit
space now called the Robert H. Michel Civics Forum.
CongressLink, a Web site for teachers, was launched, beginning a long-term investment in educational applications of emerging technology. The Center figured prominently in a successful grant application to the Department of Education for a community technology network.
|1997||The Congressional Research Grants program, boosted by long-term financial support from the Caterpillar Foundation, has awarded over $300,000 to more than 200 projects.|
|1998||The $2 million
grant administered by the National Historical Publications
and Records Commission ends.
In April, The Center's website for teachers, CongressLink, is designated "as one of the best sites on the Internet for education in the humanities" by EDSITEment.
University Of Illinois Press publishes The Education of a Senator: Everett McKinley Dirksen, Everett Dirksen's personal account of his life told through anecdotes, observations, and lessons learned. Senator Dirksen worked on this book until his death in 1969, hoping that his story would make a positive impact on a country marred by turmoil.
|1999||The Robert H.
Michel Civic Education Grants, a new program designed to assist
teachers, makes eight awards.
Westview Press publishes Congress and the Decline of Public Trust, a book of essays commissioned by The Center.
The Center begins to explore the possibility of building its own facility and separating from the Pekin Public Library.
|2000||Budget for grant-making
reaches $100,000, a first. Total hits on the CongressLink
site surpass 1.75 million.
Plans for relocation continue.
|2001||Center selects five teachers to serve as State Coordinators to promote The Center and conduct workshops. The Center debuts a five-site Web suite offering updated versions of CongressLink, Communicator, and The Dirksen Center site in addition to new portal sites about the federal government and about Web-based activities related to government for kids.|
|2002||In February, The Center announced the selection of a site in Pekin on which to build a new facility. In September, The Center launched an online version of its popular summer workshop, Congress in the Classroom. The Dirksen Center Guild transformed itself from a service organization to a membership program, "The Dirksen Center Friends." The Center broke ground for its new building on October 24.|
|2003||The Center's popular Web suite welcomed more than 12 million visitors,
with its redesigned Congress for Kids the fastest growing
of the five sites.
On September 26th and 28th, The Center held grand opening events for its new building at 2815 Broadway. Also on the 26th, Congressman Ray LaHood announced his decision to donate his papers to The Center.
Center established the Ray LaHood Scholarships for the Study
of American Government and awarded two in 2004.
The Center also completely redesigned its six-site Web suite, which attracted more than 30 million hits in 2004.
The Center led in the organization of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress, a group of more than 40 institutions seeking to improve access to historical materials and to conduct public programs to enhance the appreciation of Congress.
|2005||The Center's Web suite
hits surpassed 50
million for the first time.
Communicator's mailing list has over 18,000 subscribers and is still growing.
The Center completed the Civil Rights Documentation Project.
The Center completed two major multi-media Web-based projects: The
1960s: A Multi-Media View from Capitol Hill and Anatomy
of a Leadership Race.
The Center published The Long Hard Furrow: Everett Dirksen’s Part in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Web-based programs generated more than 69 million hits in 2006.
The Community Foundation of Central Illinois and the Illinois Humanities Council awarded grants to The Center.
|2007||The Center joined with Bradley University to establish the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service.
The Center added several resources to its Web suite: Congressman Dirksen’s constituent newsletters, the editorial cartoons from his collection, and the guide to Robert H. Michel’s Remarks and Press Releases.
The Center published, “Campaign 1944: Everett Dirksen’s Bid for the White House.”
|2008||The Center publishes Facing the Post-War World: Everett M. Dirksen Abroad, 1945
The Center receives major portions of the Ray LaHood Papers
|2009||The Center joins with IPL and the Bipartisan Public Policy Center in Washington DC to sponsor a breakfast promoting civility for new Congress members|
|2011||Center staff begin the redesign of the Web suite, version 5.0
The Center holds the 20th Congress in the Classroom® workshop for social studies teachers
The Center publishes Of Fakers, Flip-Floppers, Bunglers, and Cowards: Everett Dirksen’s Campaign for the U.S. Senate, 1950
Total hits to the Web suite in 2011 = 188,020,996
Total unique visits in 2011 = 2,607,538
|2012||Version 2.0 of the Congressional Timeline appears on The Center’s Web suite. This special project arrays more than 900 of the nation's laws on a timeline beginning with the first Congress in 1789 and continuing to the present.|
|2013||50th anniversary of The Center receiving its charter.
Ray LaHood and Frank Mackaman sign a contract with Cambria Press to publish Ray LaHood’s memoir, Watching History Unfold: My Front Row Seat.
|2014||The Civil Rights Documentation Project, 1963-1965, is posted on The Center’s Web suite.|
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The Dirksen Congressional Center conducts programming in three areas: historical collections, research, and education.
Congressional Research Grants
The Dirksen Congressional Center invites applications for grants to fund research on congressional leadership and the U.S. Congress.
Robert H. Michel Special Project Grants
The Dirksen Congressional Center announces the termination of the Robert H. Michel Special Project Grants effective June 1, 2013. The Center will concentrate its grant-making activities in an enhanced version of its long-standing Congressional Research Awards now renamed “Congressional Research Grants Sponsored by The Dirksen Congressional Center.”
Ray and Kathy LaHood Scholarships for the Study of American Government
The Ray and Kathy LaHood Scholarships for the Study of American Government provide financial support for tuition, fees, and books to juniors at Bradley University who are majoring in a discipline related to the study of the federal government. The Center sponsors the LaHood Scholarships to promote the study of politics and governance as practiced by the distinguished public servants who have represented Illinois's 18th district in Congress, a list which includes Abraham Lincoln, Everett Dirksen, and Robert H. Michel.
Information about books and monographs sponsored by The Center.
Teaching About Congress
Features lesson plans teaching resources, and simulations based on the unique historical materials and resources housed at The Dirksen Congressional Center.
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Historical Collections Overview
The Dirksen Congressional Center houses the papers, photographs, and memorabilia of Everett M. Dirksen, Harold H. Velde, Robert H. Michel, Ray LaHood, and Aaron Schock. These collections provide uninterrupted coverage of the central Illinois district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1933. Dirksen also served as one of Illinois’s two U.S. senators, 1951-1969. The Center’s holdings also include more than 150 other collections. Notable among them are the papers of Neil MacNeil, Time Magazine’s congressional correspondent, 1958-1987.
Nicole Mellow, a PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, describes her use of The Center's historical materials in the posting below. Nicole recieved a Congressional Research Award in 2001 to assist in her research.
Report on Use of Dirksen Congressional Center Research Grant
Nicole Mellow, April 2002
With the generous financial support of The Dirksen Congressional Center, I was able to spend a week gathering valuable information from the Center's archival holdings. My research at The Center focused primarily on the papers of Robert H. Michel, a Republican leader in the House of Representatives until 1994, and to a lesser extent, on the papers of Senator Everett Dirksen. Both sets of papers provided valuable material for my dissertation, which focuses on explaining the reemergence of congressional party conflict in the 1970s.
The central claim of my dissertation is that a geographical restructuring of the party system is responsible for much of the recent growth in partisanship and conflict. I focus much of my analysis on how party leaders responded to and facilitated changes in the industry, demography, and social structure of each region and the impact that this had on each party's electoral fortunes. The Center's collections were wonderful in this regard, because they provided a window into the thinking and strategizing of key Republican leaders over time. In some instances, the geographic logic of party strategies and/or policy goals was explicit; in other instances, they were implicit; and sometimes, geography was simply not a part of the equation.
Much of what was most instructive for me was contained in the Leadership Series of the Michel collection. This series contains documents from Michel's service first as Republican Whip and then as Minority Leader. Communications between party leaders, notes on strategy meetings, exchanges between party leaders and supportive interest groups, and documents from leaders to rank-and-file members provide evidence for the ways in which the party sought to regain majority status in the House. This includes both an attention to the electoral map, an awareness of what issues could help (or hurt) the party, and an increasingly sophisticated internal structure to generate ever-greater levels of unity and coordination within the party. I was surprised to learn from these files that Republican leaders believed that the party benefited from "process complaints." Letters between party leaders suggest that they believed the party would be unified and would gain electoral advantage by demonstrating the ways in which Democratic control of the House was used to unfairly disadvantage them. The document, "A Blueprint for Leadership," from the spring of 1993, shows the culmination of efforts of a party on the verge of recapturing the House. (One of the other interesting developments to track in these papers is the rise of Newt Gingrich within the party and the contrast this presents to Michel's leadership style, particularly in the early years.)
Also of use were files from the Legislative Series in the Michel collection. Much of my dissertation focuses on specific policy areas, and there is valuable information in these files on individual policy arenas. For example, one policy area that I focus on is trade, and the Shelly White files contain information on efforts to secure passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. Also well-documented are the areas of welfare reform, budget concerns, and campaign reform as well as information on the "October Surprise."
Finally, the Speech and Trip files of the Michel papers also proved to be very useful to me. From these I was able to get a sense of how Michel pitched the Republican message to different audiences. In speaking to the Republican Western States Conference in 1981, for example, Michel stressed to audience members that the West was the new growth region of the Republican party and pointed to the ways in which the party and the region shared similar ideologies and values.
My dissertation concentrates on activity in the House of Representatives and thus most of my time was spent with the Michel papers. However, I also gained useful general material from the Dirsken papers. In this collection, I concentrated on transcripts, statements, and press releases from the Joint Senate-House Republican Leadership (the Republican Congressional Leadership Files). These files from the 1960s help to illustrate the extent to which the Republican leadership was intent on nurturing its ties to primarily Southern Democrats (the Conservative Coalition). Also clear from these files is how the leadership perceived issues such as civil rights and the growth of the federal government, both in terms of Republican party philosophy and electoral consequences.
My research at the Dirksen Center provided me with a wealth of material for my dissertation, the value of which I have been discovering over time. Much of this material provides concrete pieces of evidence or data with which I can support, nuance, and sometimes modify my argument. Yet I also believe that this is an instance in which the sum is as great (maybe greater) than the parts. By tracing, in-depth, the developments in these papers of the Republican congressional leadership, I have been able to develop a more fuller and well-rounded sense of the party and its members as they evolved over time.
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Communicator - A Web-based Newsletter Providing Educators with News and Ideas to Enhance Civic Education and Improve the Understanding of Congress. This publication is a collection of featured classroom resources and teacher topics drawn from information posted on The Dirksen Center's Web suite. Each monthly publication includes selected resources and topics. Communicator will provide information about any changes to the other sites in The Center's Websuite, share classroom uses of the information posted on them, and highlight any Center related accomplishments.
The newsletter is a free service and publication.
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