The Buffalo Bill Historical Center (BBHC ) in Cody will receive $190,000 to study and digitize William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s personal papers. The earmark, part of the 2009 Federal Budget Bill, also known as the Omnibus Bill, was introduced by then Representative Barbara Cubin. Cubin left office in January.
Lee Haines, BBHC’s Director of Public Relations, says it will most likely take several months to receive the funds. Once received, the money will be used to create three new jobs: an editorial assistant and two researchers.
“We anticipate that the entire project will be completed within three years,” says Haines. “That said, we don’t plan to wait three years before we begin to share what we have found and make information available online.”
What shape the information will take as it is presented to the public is unclear, but Haines says it will probably be organized much like chapters in a book.
Why is a bill sponsored by an out-of-office representative still alive?
Federal budgets are planned two years in advance. Budgets are combed over and passed on to the Administration, which then submits it to Congress. The idea is to get it ironed out before the fiscal year the money is to be spent. It all bounces around, is adjusted, and moves from agency to Congress to the Administration and back before being signed.
“Museums everywhere are trying to realize such projects so that people can have access to information,” says National Museum of Wildlife Art CEO Jim McNutt. “We have our collection online, and any such project is worthy no matter where the funding comes from. I can’t comment on the BBHC’s process, but I’m very much in favor of such projects.”
The earmark has been widely questioned. “Taxpayers for Common Sense,” a watchdog group, singled out the BBHC funding, gaining the project national attention. Critics, including Republican Senator John McCain, tagged it as typical wasteful pork barrel spending. Proponents argue Bill Cody’s papers are a national treasure and should be preserved via federal funding.
In other fundraising efforts, the BBHC has secured $310,000 from private donors and $300,000 from the Wyoming State Legislature.
In a February 25 statement, House Representative Cynthia Lummis said, “Congressional leaders are turning a blind eye to the plight of millions of Americans by passing this bloated pork-laden spending bill.”
The BBHC takes issue. “This funding request is a normal part of the process that museums and many other institutions go through to secure funding, not only for particular projects, but for general operating support,” Bruce Eldredge, Buffalo Bill Historical Center Executive Director and CEO, said. “This request will provide additional support for what we consider to be important scholarly work. It’s unfortunate that some people appear to regard scholarship as unnecessary.”