The Mikulski papers collection contains the professional and political papers of Democratic Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, covering her early activism and years of service on the Baltimore City Council (1971-1976), in the U. S. House of Representatives for Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District (1977-1987), in the U. S. Senate for Maryland (1987-2017), and as a Homewood Professor of Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University, as well as her political service to the Democratic Party and mentorship of women Senators as Dean of Women.

The collection contains approximately 1100 boxes of physical material and 3.7 terabytes of digital material, the bulk of which relate to her time in the U. S. Senate. Senator Mikulski served on the Committee on Appropriations throughout her entire Senate tenure, and she chaired the committee from December 17, 2012 to January 3, 2015. She achieved many of her major legislative accomplishments through her work on this committee, including funding NASA’s final servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope. Her work on the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, which later became the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, is also well represented in this collection. While the committees’ records are located at the National Archives and Records Administration, legislative records produced by Senator Mikulski’s staff and offices may be found in this collection.

Throughout her time in office, Senator Mikulski was a champion of civil rights, with a particular focus on gender and labor rights. Her records demonstrate a commitment to serving constituent needs, such as her efforts to support labor and industry at the Port of Baltimore and in initiatives to restore the environmental health of the Chesapeake Bay and the jobs and industries it supports. Notable topics covered in this collection include women’s health, pay equity, equal employment opportunities, reproductive rights, spousal impoverishment, national service initiatives, veterans services, housing development, funding for scientific and technological research, and regulatory reform and facilities modernization of federal science laboratories.

The Mikulski papers are currently closed for processing. Portions of the collection are expected to open for research during Summer 2022.

Mikulski campaign memorabilia

Much of Senator Mikulski’s memorabilia can be found at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, but we have some here too. These items are related to three of her early political campaigns, including her first Senate run in 1974. Because of their bulky or fragile nature, these items will be carefully wrapped in tissue and stored flat.

Processing the Mikulski Papers

archival boxes on shelves

These boxes are waiting to be processed. As you can see, we have a wide variety of materials in this collection. It’s not just paper; here you can see that we also have audio and video tapes in various formats.

sheets of paper in a box

When we process a box, we inventory the materials, check for damage and remove damaging materials such as rubber bands or rusty paper clips, and put materials in new, acid-free folders as necessary. We then place these processed materials in an acid-free box. The correspondence in this box had not originally been placed in folders, but Senator Mikulski’s staff had grouped it by subject and labeled each bunch with sticky notes. To process the correspondence in this box, we removed the rubber bands and sticky notes on each bunch of papers and then put them in acid-free folders.

papers stack in piles on a table

We try to keep materials in their original order so that researchers know how the records creator used and maintained those records. Determining original order on this box was challenging because none of the papers had been placed in folders or arranged in the box according to any discernable scheme. To come up with an appropriate arrangement scheme, we looked at how other similar records were organized in the collection. In this case, these records cover projects that Senator Mikulski and her staff were helping local organizations and government officials pursue. Copying an arrangement scheme that Senator Mikulski’s staff used for other project files in the collection, we grouped these papers by county.

archival boxes on shelves

Here you can see processed boxes on shelves, ready to be entered in library systems and sent off to storage until they open to researchers. On the table, a box is being processed. Each folder is documented in a spreadsheet, which will be used to create finding aids that help researchers locate desired materials in the collection. Those folders that are falling apart or too small for their contents, including several on the left-hand side of the table, will be replaced before they are placed in an archival box.