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Date: November 5, 2010
Contact: Anne Strong
Telephone: (301) 279-9697

History Associates’ Steve Swisdak Speaks at American Bar Association Conference on How Historical Research Can Uncover Critical Evidence

Steve Swisdak, deputy director of litigation research at historical research firm History Associates Incorporated, spoke at the American Bar Association’s 18th Annual Environment, Energy, and Resources Law Summit on September 30.  His presentation, entitled “Using Historical Research to Make Your Case: A Survey of Key Federal Records,” offered insights into how federal government records can provide critical evidence in legal matters, what types of documents exist, and how to go about finding them.

“Many legal matters can benefit from effective historical research into federal government records,” said Mr. Swisdak. “If you know where to look, you can find documents that can be dispositive in environmental cases.”  Mr. Swisdak illustrated his point with several examples of documents he and his colleagues have collected from the National Archives, including a 1954 Air Force publication concerning the health hazards of cleaning solvents and a map of a World War II-era Army airfield that indicates the location of a former Army waste pit.

Mr. Swisdak’s presentation also touched on other federal records repositories that maintain documents of interest to environmental law practitioners, including the Library of Congress and myriad federal archives, libraries, and history offices.

The presentation concluded with pointers on submitting effective Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.  Specifically, Mr. Swisdak recommended that requestors remember that when submitting a FOIA request, “you are basically asking an agency records officer, who probably knows little if anything about your topic, to conduct research on your behalf into his agency’s records.  Thus, the more information you can provide in your FOIA request, the more likely you are to get relevant records.  Provide contract numbers, or box numbers, or any other type of information you know that can help guide the records officer.”

Following his presentation, Mr. Swisdak circulated guides to researching three types of common environmental cases: “Identifying and Characterizing PRPs,” “CERCLA Claims against the Federal Government,” and “Product Liability and Asbestos Issues.”  For a copy of these handouts or of Mr. Swisdak’s presentation, please email History Associates.

About History Associates
For more than thirty years the historians and archivists at History Associates have demonstrated that history is valuable in the market as well as the marketplace of ideas. They provide professional corporate histories, exhibit content, interpretive planning, historical research, archival services, and collections management services to clients throughout the United States and around the world. History Associates strives to be The Best Company in History®, serving corporate, government, legal, and nonprofit clients from its headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. For more information, call (301) 279-9697 or visit

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