Chapter

Rethinking Archival Politics: Trust, Truth, and the Law

Francis X. Blouin Jr. and William G. Rosenberg

in Processing the Past

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199740543
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894673 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199740543.003.0010
Rethinking Archival Politics: Trust, Truth, and the Law

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All scholars recognize that restricting access to “classified” materials is related to issues of political control, but this chapter argues that power in the archives is ubiquitous, and much less well understood, in terms of its relationship to social institutions and questions of political legitimacy. Using Soviet archives as an example of familiar “closed” systems, it contrasts overt political practices in repositories of this sort with the more subtle but equally politicized practices of “open” archives. The discussion accepts that restrictive access is inescapable in any archival institution, but attempts to clarify the relationship between archival politics and historical understanding. The chapter argues in this regard that trust must often supplant law as a way of assuring archives and archivists are truthful.

Keywords: politics; Freedom of Information Acts; Vatican Archives; Presidential Libraries; public interest; archival law; records; PROFS case

Chapter.  10961 words. 

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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