The Center promotes research and scholarship to advance the public understanding of the U.S. Congress.
The Center holds over 200 archival collections, including the papers of every U.S. Representative from central Illinois’s 18th congressional district (and its predecessors) since 1933.
The Center has awarded over $1,100,000 in grants to more than 500 scholars conducting research about Congress since 1978 and an additional $850,000 for such special projects as publications, conferences, workshops, and directed research.
To achieve its mission, The Center also partners with allied organizations such as the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress, the Legislative Studies Section of the American Political Science Association, the Institute for Principled Leadership and Public Service at Bradley University, the Congressional Papers Section of the Society of American Archivists, and the University Press of Kansas.
The bylaws of the Everett McKinley Dirksen Endowment Fund, adopted November 14, 1963, describe the organization's mission as follows:
To finance and maintain the creation of a wing of the City Library of Pekin, Illinois, to house, display, and preserve the public letters, books, records, pictures, medals, and other materials associated with the public service of Everett McKinley Dirksen as citizen, soldier, and public servant; and to make such endowments for the study and dissemination of the art and science of public service as shall seem fitting.
The Board of Directors expresses the current mission in these words:
The Dirksen Congressional Center promotes research and scholarship to advance the public understanding of the U.S. Congress.
J. Douglas Smith, On Democracy’s Doorstep: The Inside Story of How the Supreme Court Brought “One Person, One Vote” to the United States:
During the 1960s, Everett Dirksen emerged as the leading voice of those who objected to the Supreme Court's reapportionment rulings. I arrived at the Dirksen Center with high hopes of learning more about Dirksen's views on the subject, but never imagined that I would find such a wealth of amazing materials. My understanding of the topic has been immeasurably enhanced by the chance to have worked in the Dirksen Papers. I am deeply grateful to the Dirksen Center for the financial support that allowed me to do such critical research.
Julian Zelizer, The American Congress: The Building of Democracy:
The Dirksen Congressional Center has been a wonderful and indispensable addition to the community of scholars interested in congressional history. The Center has offered financial support that scholars need to conduct research into the legislative branch, while it has been instrumental to the organization of conferences, workshops, web-based initiatives, and teaching programs that greatly further our knowledge of congressional history.
Todd S. Purdum, An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
Frank Mackaman at the Dirksen Congressional Center in Pekin, Illinois, is a peerless one-man band, a veteran archival librarian and the reigning expert in all things Ev. His monograph on Dirksen’s role in the bill was never far from my side, and I am everlastingly grateful for his help ….
Laura S. Jensen, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, (Congressional Research Grant recipient, 2005):
It is also important to note that [the Congressional Research Grants] Program is a vital source of support for types of research not generally funded by organizations such as the National Science Foundation. While Dirksen award amounts are relatively small, they very powerfully combine with other small funding streams (for example, the typically small grants given to faculty by their academic institutions) to render otherwise impossible projects possible.
Jeffrey Crouch, The Presidential Pardon Power:
[About The Center-sponsored Robert H. Michel: Leading the Republican House Minority (University Press of Kansas, Spring 2019) Frank H. Mackaman and Sean Q Kelly, eds.] : A richly documented and authoritative look at Michel’s congressional career. Editors Mackaman and Kelly have done an excellent job both in selected contributors and developing a compelling narrative to frame these expertly written chapters. This should be the first book consulted by readers who are curious about Bob Michel’s legislative legacy.
John J. Pitney Jr., Roy P. Crocker Professor of Politics, Claremont McKenna College:
This excellent book explains why Bob Michel was the most effective minority leader in the history of the House of Representatives. Its richly detailed and perceptive essays show that he was a legislator in full" a servant for his district, a watchdog of the public treasury, and a masterful tactician who won historic votes without partisan majorities. Anyone who wants to understand congressional leadership should read Robert H. Michel: Leading the Republican House Minority.