Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Library of Congress gets
most of Mink’s papers

Question: Does anyone know which library will receive Patsy Mink's congressional papers? Will the University of Hawaii be the recipient?

Answer: Most of the late congresswoman's papers have been turned over to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

All the papers from Mink's Washington and Honolulu offices have already been sent to the library, Mink's husband, John, told Kokua Line last week, and he was in the process of collecting the papers he had at his home in Honolulu. He expected to forward them to the library within a month.

Some papers from Mink's first terms on Capitol Hill have long been housed at Wichita State University and at Smith College. Mink served two stints in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1965 until 1976 and from 1991 until her death last Sept. 28. She was 74 when she died of viral pneumonia.

UH President Evan Dobelle had asked whether Mink's papers could be kept at the UH's Hawaii Congressional Papers Collection, and Smith College, where Mink's daughter, Wendy, is a professor of political science, also had asked about them, John Mink said.

But the commitment already had been made to the Library of Congress.

Officials from the national library "consider them rather unique for the period of time," Mink said. "My daughter felt it was more in, if I might say so, the national interest that they go to the Library of Congress." The library "(doesn't) usually take papers like that, but they wanted these."

Patsy Mink began her political career in 1956, when she was elected to Hawaii's territorial House. She also served in the territorial and state Senates before being elected to Congress in 1964.

"She was right at the forefront of all the major changes that began to take place (in the nation)," John Mink said. "I think (library officials) look upon (her papers) as sort of a narrative of a period of time."

While it is apparent why some of Mink's papers went to Smith College, it was not certain how some ended up at Wichita State in Kansas. Mink did not have a direct connection to that university. Neither Jan Zastrow, archivist for the UH Hawaii Congressional Papers Collection, nor John Mink knew the reason.

We contacted Michael Kelly, curator of special collections at Wichita State, who acknowledged, "There is no reason why we would have Patsy Mink's papers here."

But he speculated that back in the 1970s, when Wichita State was starting its special collections, someone probably asked for the papers of Wichita Congressman Garner Shriver, who was Mink's colleague in the '60s and '70s. Kelly said he dug up a letter from Mink to Shriver, in which she wrote, "Thank you for your letter regarding my congressional papers. I have sent the university various items already and will certainly give serious thought to final disposition of all my files as you suggested at a later time."

Kelly said Wichita State doesn't have a lot of Mink's early papers -- only three boxes, which is about what Smith College has. They include congressional reports, copies of legislation, and speeches and addresses. The most notable is a transcript of an oral history interview that chronicles her early life and political career.

According to the Wichita State Web site about Mink's collection -- -- the material "displays her political concerns, including such subjects as Affirmative Action programs and strip-mining legislation."

In addition to Wichita State and Smith College, John Mink believes there may be a third place, in New Jersey, where some of his wife's papers may have ended up, but he is not sure.

Although UH officials are understandably disappointed that Mink's papers are going elsewhere, "we will be working directly with the Library of Congress in processing those papers," Zastrow said.

The UH also will receive the "Finding Aid" -- which is a guide that archival repositories provide to researchers to inform them of what is in a collection. A "Finding Aid" is to an archival collection what a card catalog is to a library, Zastrow explained.

She will work directly with the specialist in the manuscript department at the Library of Congress to process the Mink papers "so we will have a very good idea of what is in the papers once they have been acquired and processed."

In the United States, the papers of congressional delegates are considered personal property to do with as they wish, she noted. "In other countries, they're considered government records and they are required to be deposited in national institutions."

The Hawaii Congressional Papers Collection is stored in a climate-controlled repository in the East-West Center's Jefferson Hall on the UH-Manoa campus. The papers of the late U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga, former U.S. Sen. Hiram Fong and former U.S. Rep. Thomas Gill are now there, while U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie have pledged their papers to the UH upon their retirement, Zastrow said.

The late U.S. Sen. Oren Long's papers are deposited in the Hawaii State Archives, while U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka has pledged his to Kamehameha Schools.

The UH is continuing to pursue the papers of former Reps. Cecil Heftel and Patricia Saiki through the UH Foundation, Zastrow said.

Although Long's papers are in the State Archives and Akaka's will go to Kamehameha Schools, that isn't seen as a problem, because "our main concern is that all the papers are accessible to researchers, particularly in Hawaii," she said.

She noted that U.S. Rep. Ed Case, who was elected in January to succeed Mink, is only the 11th individual to represent Hawaii in Congress since statehood in 1959.

"We are very fortunate to be starting our program when we have so few members and most of who are still alive, as opposed to some of the older states that have hundreds and hundreds of Congress members," Zastrow said.

The papers of Matsunaga, Fong and Gill are currently being processed, but they can be viewed by appointment. Call 944-7656 or check the collection's Web site --

Zastrow said she hopes to have open reference hours -- no appointment necessary -- beginning this fall.

The collection helps "define Hawaii as a unique region with a distinct and valuable culture," she said. "This perpetual resource provides not only primary source material for academic research but engenders cultural pride and historical perspective for educational pursuits by the local community and researchers worldwide."

Usually, in addition to the donation of papers, families do provide a small stipend to help in the processing of the papers, Zastrow said. However, public donations are always welcomed. If you wish to make a donation, contact Dana Myers, library development officer, at 956-8688.


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