The Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center (commonly known as the Carl Albert Center) is a nonpartisan institution at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma established for researching the United States Congress and, more generally, issues related to representative democracy and citizenship. It is named for Carl Albert, a University of Oklahoma alumnus and the 46th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. The current director is Cindy Rosenthal, who is also the Mayor of Norman.
The Carl Albert Center was founded by the University of Oklahoma's Board of Regents and the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education in 1979 with both state and private funds. The Center's early federal funding proved to be controversial, as a "yearlong battle" occurred in Congress before it approved a $2-million appropriation in 1982. Of the eight members in Oklahoma's congressional delegation that year, seven supported federal funding for the Carl Albert Center, with only Don Nickles opposing it. Nickles argued that the "Senate won't buy" the idea of federal funding for the Center, while Dave McCurdy (one of the seven in support) termed Nickles' opposition "unfortunate" and contended that the institution was "good for the University of Oklahoma" and "of national importance". In 1982, the Center contained 40 sets of congressional papers, 36 of which were from Oklahomans; however, a number of Oklahoma lawmakers wanted it to eventually become, in the words of journalist Denise Gamino, "the premier national repository for congressional papers". By 1989, the number of collections held at the Carl Albert Center had grown to 50, while the Center was selected as one of three host institutions for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission's Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded 1989-90 Fellowship Program.
The Carl Albert Center's Congressional Archives contain manuscripts, photographs, and oral histories, including the papers of 58 former Congress members and 20 other people related to congressional history and scholarship, including scholars, journalists, former political aides, and organizations. Besides the papers of Carl Albert himself, the Carl Albert Center also holds the collections of numerous United States Senators and Representatives from Oklahoma, including Dewey F. Bartlett, Page Belcher, John Newbold Camp, Fred R. Harris, Robert S. Kerr, Dave McCurdy, A. S. Mike Monroney, Tom Steed, and Elmer Thomas. Beyond these Oklahoma-related materials, the Center also includes the papers of a number of congressional representatives from other states, including Jeffery Cohelan and Helen Gahagan Douglas of California, Millicent Fenwick and Cornelius Edward Gallagher of New Jersey, Carl Hatch of New Mexico, Dick Armey of Texas, Elbert D. Thomas of Utah, and Andrew Biemiller of Wisconsin. Beyond elected officials, the institution additionally holds the papers of many people related to the history and study of Congress, including UPI reporter Harry Culver, historians Danney Goble and Richard N. Lowitt, presidential advisor Bryce Harlow, political scientist Ronald M. Peters, Jr., and press secretaries Jim Monroe, Beth Campbell Short, and Malvina Stephenson.
In addition to its congressional collections, the Carl Albert Center holds materials relating to state politics in Oklahoma, including oral history interviews with state senators. The Center also contains a number of collections of thematic interest, such as on the Great Depression and the relationship between Native Americans and public policy.
The Carl Albert Center's Congressional Archives sponsor exhibits, including traveling and online exhibits, as well as travel grants for scholars. Former exhibits at the Carl Albert Center have included such subjects and collections as the relationship between Washington politicians and Hollywood actors, Easter greeting cards, Oklahoma's representatives in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the New Deal, and the history of Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives. Additionally, the Center has sponsored lectures at the University of Oklahoma, including those given by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jack N. Rakove and Harvard University professor Thomas E. Patterson.
The Carl Albert Center is also home to the Women's Leadership Initiative, which addresses historic gender imbalances and challenges facing women in leadership and public service positions, including politics. The Initiative consists of a number of programs that endeavor to increase the number of women in political roles and other positions of public service, and they are targeted at both female college students and post-collegiate working women. The National Education for Women's Leadership program, which is a five-day event designed to encourage female college students to consider public service-related career paths, was established in 2002 and is at the heart of the Initiative.
The Carl Albert Center additionally publishes the biannual journal Extensions, which it considers a "forum of discussion" for topics concerning the United States Congress. It includes articles written by congressional scholars, interviews with members of Congress, historical commentaries, and notes about the Center's current activities and research efforts. The Center has also conducted various public opinion polls of the Oklahoma electorate, including in matters of state politics, national politics, and foreign affairs.