President Joe Biden has nominated Arlington resident Dr. Colleen Shogan to be the Archivist of the United States.
In normal times, the Archivist nomination does not make national news headlines. But now, Shohan is reportedly facing pushing back on Capitol Hill by some Republicans upset with the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home.
The long-time local resident appears to be uniquely qualified for the role of Archivist, whose job is to serve as the “nation’s record keeper” and manage the National Archives.
Shogan is currently a director at the White House Historical Association, an instructor at Georgetown University, and was formerly a deputy director at the Library of Congress. Additionally, she is the board chair of the organization charged with building a national monument to women’s suffrage.
Shogan, a Yale Ph.D., is also the first woman nominated as the permanent Archivist of the United States.
However, in recent days, it seems her path to confirmation could be in peril due to events that are beyond her control.
Two weeks ago, the FBI conducted a search of former President Trump’s Florida home at the behest of the National Archives. For the last 18 months, the National Archives has been trying to retrieve at least two dozen boxes of presidential records material that belong to the federal government but were taken to Mar-a-Lago.
Among the items missing were letters from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and a note that President Barack Obama left Trump, according to the New York Times.
Trump reportedly refused to turn over the materials, which triggered a criminal investigation and the FBI search.
This, however, has led a number of Republicans, as well as Trump himself, to criticize the FBI and the National Archives for what they believe is an overreach of authority and a “witch hunt.”
This has led some GOP senators who will be part of Shogan’s confirmation hearings to say that they will be questioning the nominee much more closely and will “absolutely demand answers” from her about the search.
It’s worth noting that Shogan had nothing to do with the National Archives’ 18-month attempt to get back records nor the FBI search since she was nominated only several weeks ago and is still awaiting confirmation.
Nonetheless, the Arlington resident could be facing a “hostile path to confirmation,” as Bloomberg reports.
While a date has yet to be set for a confirmation hearing, it is expected to happen within the next few months. In response to a request from ARLnow, the White House declined to arrange an interview with Shogan prior to the confirmation.
Aside from her academic and professional accomplishments, Shogan has another unique entry in her biography. She is a murder mystery author who pens novels starring a congressional staffer who has a habit of stumbling upon homicides.
One of her “Washington Whodunit” series of novels is entitled “Larceny at the Library.”
Update on 5/17/23 — Shogan was confirmed by the Senate and has assumed office. From a National Archives press release today:
Dr. Colleen Shogan assumed the role of Archivist of the United States today and, immediately after taking the oath of office, began her work as the head of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
“It is an honor and a privilege to join the National Archives and Records Administration today as the 11th Archivist of the United States.” Shogan said. “Our mission is both straightforward and complex: strengthen our nation’s democracy through access to the public records we hold in trust. As a political scientist, I have a deeply held belief in the importance of that mission. As the Archivist, I will be a passionate advocate for NARA and the work we do.”
Shogan’s first briefing focused on veterans services. Reflecting her priority to address the backlog of veterans’ records, Shogan spoke with leaders from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). They discussed major initiatives that will continue to improve service delivery to veterans, including staffing and digitization efforts. Shogan said her first visit to a NARA facility outside of Washington, will take place later this month, when she will tour the NPRC in St. Louis and meet with staff as well as local congressional delegates.
On her first day as Archivist of the United States, Shogan also toured the research rooms and museum spaces of the National Archives Building. She will spend her next few days meeting with NARA leaders about their work, touring the National Archives at College Park, and receiving briefings about the functions NARA fulfills in execution of its mission.
“The National Archives is extremely fortunate that Dr. Shogan has joined us to lead the agency,” said Deputy Archivist Debra Steidel Wall. “I look forward to her leadership and to working alongside her to further NARA’s essential work: making our records accessible equitably, promoting civic literacy, serving our country’s veterans, expanding digitization, and, through these functions, strengthening American democracy.” Wall served as the Acting Archivist of the United States from May 2022 until Shogan assumed office.
Shogan is the 11th Archivist of the United States and the first woman to hold the position permanently. She was nominated by President Biden on August 3, 2022, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 10, 2023. She succeeds David S. Ferriero, who retired as Archivist in April 2022. Prior to her appointment, Shogan most recently served as senior vice president of the White House Historical Association. She previously worked for over a decade at the Library of Congress in senior roles as the Assistant Deputy Librarian for Collections and Services and the Deputy Director of the Congressional Research Service.
Earlier in her career, Shogan worked as a policy staff member in the U.S. Senate and taught at Georgetown University and George Mason University. She earned a BA in Political Science from Boston College and a Ph.D. in American Politics from Yale University, where she was a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Order of the Cross and Crown, and the United States Capitol Historical Society’s Council of Scholars.
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