Michael Binder, Technical Advisor, Air Force Declassification Office

Proposal Type

Open for discussion/debate

  • Seeking Additional Presenters
  • Seeking Specific Expertise
  • Seeking General Feedback and Interest
Related Topics
  • Government Historians
  • Material Culture
  • Preservation

Government historians cannot save everything, be it historical documents or an old building, but they are often called upon to separate the historic “wheat” from the just plain old “chaff.”  This session is designed to present examples of such discrimination, which is required in, for example, records management and historic preservation.


This proposal is presented on behalf of the NCPH Government Historians Committee; chair of the session is open.

Whether it’s paper documents or bricks-and-mortar buildings, mere age does not make them historic.  Several criteria, such as significance and integrity, contribute to separating the truly historic from the merely old.

We seek government historians who can speak from their work experience to the following topics:

– identifying records of PHV (permanent historical value) which become eligible for deposit at the National Archives according to an agency’s Tables and Rules

– discriminating between significant and insignificant historical records, e. g., for inclusion in State Department FRUS volumes

– identifying historical properties that qualify for the National Register of Historical Places or as National Historic Landmarks

and other relevant subjects.

If you have a direct offer of assistance, sensitive criticism, or wish to pass along someone’s contact information confidentially, please get in contact directly: Michael Binder, [email protected]

If you have general ideas or feedback to share, please feel free to use the comments feature below.

All feedback and offers of assistance should be submitted by July 2, 2017.


  1. Gregory Mobley says:

    This session would be of interest to archivists who work outside of the government. Separating the “historic” from the “old” is a big part of our job, and it gets more complicated when you have to explain to potential donors that their treasured papers and artifacts are just old and not historic enough to be accepted by the archives.

    1. Michael Binder says:

      Mr. Mobley:

      Wow, I didn’t realize I needed to check the NCPH website for comments instead of just relying on direct emails to my address. Thus, my late reply.
      Thanks for responding, and thanks for your insight. My focus is on “big” preservation (buildings, etc.), so, I did not appreciate your situation of small-scale donations until I read your comment.
      I have not received any offers from potential speakers for this session, so, I’ll probably just concentrate on the other two proposed panels, which have prompted several volunteers to step forward.

  2. Patrick McKnight says:

    Sounds like a subject with potential. I work at Steamtown National Historic Site, a site dedicated to telling the story of the impact of steam locomotives on the nation. Every day I have to deal with what ties into our mission and what does not. Just because a railroad was remotely connected does not mean we have to preserve it. Our scope of collections statement leaves out model trains. Real locomotives and railroad cars are offered up, we have over 100 on site and cannot take care of what we do have, much less taking in new ones.

    1. Michael Binder says:

      Just behind military sites lies my second-favorite historical subject area — railroads. But, I’m a diesel fan — not into steam at all.
      I have some familiarity with Steamtown’s collection, being friends with Mark Morgan, who was a ranger at the NHP back in the 1980s. You need more US power!
      I’ve received no offers from potential speakers for this session, so, the subject will have to wait for another NCPH meeting.


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