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A Bill Entitled “An act to provide for the safe keeping of the Acts, Records, and Seal of the United States,” signed into law September 15, 1789

Only months after convening, the First Congress made the secretary of state responsible for the safekeeping of and access to the government’s official records. Congress transferred this authority to the National Archives when it was established in 1934.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

An act to provide for the safe keeping of the Acts, Records, and Seal of the United States An act to provide for the safe keeping of the Acts, Records, and Seal of the United States

Ensuring the Public’s Right to Know

Congress is the most open of our three branches of government: its floor proceedings are televised, published, and can be observed by the public. Most committee hearings are transcribed and distributed to designated libraries across the country. Keeping records and making them available are critical to a democratic society. The “right to know,” however, is delicately balanced with the need to protect vital issues of national security.