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LibraryGate: NYT confirms crackdown on access to Presidential Archives

1/25/2015: Rachel Donadio has the story in the NY Times, here:

… Every archival official knows that he or she would be safer” erring on the side of “denying access to documents.” The problems are both bureaucratic and political. The slow-moving federal committee in charge of declassifiying state archive material has been renamed the Commission on State Secrets, and it sees its mandate as protecting them, scholars say. …

Others scholars offer tales of more recent closures. Mark Kramer, the director of cold war studies at Harvard, cites the abrupt closing, in September 2003, of material on Stalin’s postwar foreign policy that had been available since the early ’90s. “One day I was able to order files … and a couple of days later I was told that the whole opis” — or batch of material — “had been sealed and would need to be re-declassified,” Kramer said in an e-mail message. “I was no longer permitted to see even the files I had pored over in the past.” Similarly, James Person, an associate at the Cold War International History Project, which publishes material from former Communist countries, said that five years ago he consulted documents from 1956 concerning the Soviet relationship with North Korea; when he returned in March 2006, they had been reclassified.

But many researchers find imaginative side doors. “You don’t give up because you can’t get into the presidential archive in Moscow, which is still the holy of holies,” James Hershberg, a historian at George Washington University, said of the former Politburo archive that contains the most sensitive material.

Oh, wait. This is from 2007, and it’s about Russia’s President Vladmir Putin, not UO’s President Scott Coltrane. And so far has I can tell Putin has never demanded the return of “unlawfully released archives”, threatened a professor for posting archived documents on the web and demanded that they be taken down, or put librarians or archivists on leave for making archives available to the public.

Thanks to анонимный for the link.

1/24/2015: Bob Keefer’s Eugene Art Talk reports on Friday’s faculty party Archives gossip

Here. I’ll have a report on the Saturday parties after this one quiets down, and more rumors trickle in. As always, I advise faculty to check VP Robin Holmes’ website and obey Eugene’s “Ordinance on Unruly Gatherings”, especially if you’re inviting professors from the natural sciences.


  1. Dewey D. 01/25/2015

    The EPD closed down the library party early, telling everyone to keep it quiet.

    Seriously, the rumor I heard is that Adriene Lim is considering a plan to limit electronic archives access to credentialed scholars with an authorized research plan that documents their need for specific documents.

    • Fishwrapper 01/28/2015

      …and the truth shall make you free.

  2. MaoZ 01/25/2015

    “My office was so low that people avoided me. One of my tasks was to register the names of people who came to read newspapers, …

    -Mao Zedong, on working as an Assistant Librarian at Beijing University, 1918;

    from Red Star Over China, by Edgar Snow.

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