Thirty years from now people searching for information about Nevada’s political history will not be let down when they come to UNLV Libraries. Currently, The Libraries maintains papers of two former U.S. senators, Howard Cannon and Chic Hecht, as well as those from a number of Southern Nevada state legislators and items from former Congressman Jim Bilbray. The most recent addition is that of Congresswoman Berkley, who has also generously donated her congressional papers to UNLV Libraries.
Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, who served Nevada from Jan. 3, 1999 to Jan. 3, 2013, donated 42 boxes – approximately 45 linear feet – consisting of paper legislative records such as correspondence, documents and reports; videos of her appearances; certificates, awards, plaques and various mementos; and a number of noteworthy photos.
“I am so pleased to make this contribution,” Berkley said. “It’s especially meaningful because UNLV is my alma mater, and UNLV Libraries is the ideal venue to house these documents that represent such a significant part of my public life. I hope they prove useful for future generations by providing insight into my work and the legislative process overall.”
Safeguarding former legislators’ papers is important for a number of reasons, said Peter Michel, the director of the Special Collections Division.
“First, to document the career of our legislators, who have certainly, in Shelley Berkley's case, provided the state of Nevada and her constituents with distinguished public service during her seven terms in office,” he said. “It is also important to document the legislative process, how laws are made and why, who has input, who participates. It is a microcosm of our representative government at work.”
Michel said there are also boxes of correspondence from Berkley’s constituents in the collection.
“Lastly, the material and information that a member of Congress amasses during their term, and for that process of legislating and governing, provides an important historical documentation for subjects and issues that are important, not only on a national or international level, but on a local level as well,” Michel said. “Examples can easily be provided by Congresswoman Berkley's papers, which cover such topics as Yucca Mountain, labor, health care, veterans and a variety of foreign policy issues, in particular, her strong support for the State of Israel.”
Recently, Sen. Cannon’s papers were used by author Michael Vernetti to write his biography, “Senator Howard Cannon of Nevada,” published by University of Nevada Press. Michel also said they have been exhaustively used by a number of recent history graduate students writing dissertations on topics on which his papers and legislative records provide rich documentation, from issues of water management, to the politics of federal land use.
To access any of the congressional papers in Special Collections, researchers would simply need to consult the collection inventory. Once they’ve decided which files they would like to see, library staff will bring the files to them.
According to Michel, the Berkley collection will be discoverable through UNLV Libraries’ online database and catalog. Additionally, UNLV Libraries hopes to have an inventory finding aid online in the near future.