U. S. Senator from Michigan, 1959-1976, a conscientious supporter of civil rights, consumer protection and environmentalism, Hart served as floor manager of the 1965 civil rights act and 1968 Open Housing Act, introduced legislation to create Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rock National Lakeshores and sponsored important consumer legislation. Papers include Legislative Files, Staff Files, Press Files, Subject Files, Constituent Correspondence, Office Files, Political Files, Miscellaneous, Sound Recordings, and Visual Materials.
The Philip A. Hart collection consists of those files maintained by Hart and his staff in Washington D.C. while serving as senator from Michigan in the period 1958-1976. A senate office in the 1960s and 1970s could employ as many as thirty staff and clerical workers. In 1975, Hart wrote: "My own office presently consists of 34 full-time people in Washington plus 4 in my Detroit office and one part-time employee each in Grand Rapids and Marquette." Received from Washington, the Hart collection documents the workings of his Capitol office. Excepting for a few files from the 1950s when Hart served in Michigan state government, the Hart papers relate exclusively to Senate activities and detail the variety and bulk of problems crossing the desk of a United States senator and his staff.
In a press release describing his office, Hart stated that the work of a senator falls into three categories: legislative, participating in the discussion and formulation of public policy, and serving as "ambassador" between his constituents and the Federal Government. Beyond the study of legislation, public policy debates, and the relationship between a senator and the people of his state, the Hart collection is a reflection of the times in which Hart served, the sixties and seventies, years of the presidencies of Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford, a time when public figures discussed issues of conscience and of war, matters of human rights and of public morality, areas where Hart's basic integrity and humaneness placed him in the forefront of public debate.
The collection falls into eleven principal series: Personal/Biographical, Legislative Files, Staff Files, Press Files, Subject Files, Constituent Correspondence, Office Files, Political Files, Miscellaneous, Sound Recordings, and Visual Materials. Except for Personal/Biographical and the series of audio-visual materials, the Hart collection is an office file and represents the activities of one senator and a dozen or so of his key staff members. To use the collection, the researcher after examining the "Series Description" (on the following pages) should note that for any topical study, information will usually be found in any number of series within the collection. The series represent functional divisions within the Hart office, legislation, press, or whatever. To study an issue such as consumer protection, therefore, the researcher should be prepared to examine the Hart finding aid under the series that might document that topic from different functional perspectives (Legislative Files, Staff Files, Subject Files, among others). The researcher interested in a narrower, more specific topic should recognize that the following inventory, for the most part, is not a folder-level description and thus specialized kinds of information will be filed first under a more general heading.
One more note: The Hart papers originally consisted of more than 700 linear feet of files. Hart himself and his staff had discarded certain types of files before donating them to the library, notably case files and constituent mail answered by form. In addition, the library discarded files of low research content - thank yous, invitations, and carbons of Hart correspondence duplicated in the other principal series of the collection. Furthermore, files containing similar types of correspondence from constituents have been sampled (the folders have "S" or "Samp" on them). Government publications, easily available in a government documents library, and unless heavily annotated, have been discarded. Researchers on any topic within the Hart collection should familiarize themselves with the standard sources on government documents (the indices to the Congressional Record for example). Topics on which Hart played a key legislative role or about which he was keenly interested have not been sampled. These topics include civil rights, the passage of various consumer legislation, the Sleeping Bear Dunes debate, his committee work, and the debate over the war in Vietnam to list a few.