Reading Archives

With this blog, I am planning to offer, as regularly as possible, critical observations on the scholarly and popular literature analyzing the nature of archives or contributing to our understanding of archives in society. I hope this blog will be of assistance to anyone, especially faculty and graduate students, interested in understanding archives and their importance to society.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Presidential Safes

Michael Isikoff, “Papers? I Don’t See Any Papers,” Newsweek, October 29, 2007, pp. 37-38 suggests that presidential records have become a campaign issue. He recounts the difficulties Sally Bedell Smith had in researching her book about Hillary Clinton at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, an institution that Isikoff indicates has been dubbed “Little Rock’s Fort Know.” Isikoff indicates that very little of the materials held at this library have been opened, a situation the Bill Clinton blames on the current president, although there are conflicting reports about just who is blocking what.

Isikoff indicates that Newsweek obtained through a FOIA request at the National Archives documents indicating that “Clinton has given the Archives private instructions to tightly control the disclosure of chunks of his archive,” with some directions about restricting access to the records of Hillary, and some of his instructions extending “beyond restrictions placed by predecessors Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, neither of whom put any controls over the papers of their wives.”

One can hope that there will be more scrutiny and criticism of these restrictive policies, obviously intended to keep matters wrapped up tightly until after the November 2008 elections, to the extent that public outrage might start the process of ending these institutions once and for all.