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The letterhead on the press release reads Max Baucus '78, and on the draft, Montana's longest-serving senator scribbled a note to a staffer.

"Good start! I like it. Very good. But, note change, p. 3.

"Never refer to Montanans as 'our constituents.' Montanans are not 'my constituents.' I am, all of us are, their servants."

The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library at the University of Montana displays that letter in a case at its entrance as an introduction to the Max S. Baucus Papers.

Baucus served in the Montana House of Representatives from 1973 to 1974, the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 to 1978, and the U.S. Senate from 1978 to 2014. From 2014 to 2016, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to China.

This month, the Mansfield Library announced portions of his official archives are open for research. Donna McCrea, head of UM archives and special collections, said the material, more than 1,000 boxes and a terabyte-plus of data, reveal information about Baucus and about the time he served.

Baucus' papers join those of John Melcher, Joseph Dixon, Pat Williams and Mike Mansfield, other long-serving Democrats of Montana.

"We have a number of congressional collections," McCrea said. "And where I see them having the largest impact is in the ability to look back on what were constituents interested in at a particular time and how were they articulating that interest and how were elected officials responding to their constituents, both privately and publicly.

"The other piece that's really important about maintaining congressional files is that you do get that back and forth between the legislators or the legislator and their influencers, whether lobbyists or cabinet people or powerful people in industry."

Most of the collection remains closed until 2044, although McCrea said she anticipates a lot of it will be opened in advance in conversation with Baucus. For example, letters from constituents and lawmakers who are still living are shielded for the time being.

The library received the collection in 2014 and has been putting in order the material, which includes newspaper clippings, historic photographs, campaign memorabilia, legislation, floor statements, and correspondence. Although only recently announced, the papers have has been available since the fall, and McCrea said undergraduate students already have been using the material in their research.

In a news release, UM noted Baucus' notable achievements as the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century of 1998, the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act of 2013, and federal support for the asbestos crisis in Libby.

Baucus chaired the powerful Senate Finance Committee from 2007 to 2014. His committee led the drafting of health care legislation, but in a controversial move, he did not include a "public option" in the plan.

McCrea did not know if Baucus' communication with insurance lobbyists is included in the collection, but she said such material typically is part of the archive. 

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Additionally, she said the archive from Baucus "is our largest collection of electronic materials."

People come from around the world to look at Mansfield's papers to learn, for instance, how Montanans were feeling about civil rights or the Vietnam war, McCrea said. She anticipates the Baucus collection will draw similar interest from government officials, journalists, scholars, biographers and industry representatives.

In particular, she anticipates Baucus' involvement in international trade will be of interest to people wanting to read both his public statements and communications behind the scenes.

"All of life is represented in congressional papers," McCrea said. "It's the passions of individuals, the mechanics of our government in process, for better or for worse. It's the front-facing and the behind-the-scenes activity."

She said the model Baucus used to preserve and manage his materials works well. He gave the library his collection along with roughly $850,000 left over from campaign contributions, she said, and all the funds will go toward management of the archive.

In a news release, political papers archivist Natalie Bond described the Baucus papers as "a rich and complex collection of materials that provide deep insight into the changing political and cultural nature of American society." Interim Dean of Libraries Barry Brown said in a statement such collections "are an important component of transparency between the government and the people."

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