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Processing the PastContesting Authorities in History and the Archives$
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Francis X. Blouin, Jr and William G. Rosenberg

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199740543

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199740543.001.0001

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Rethinking Archival Politics: Trust, Truth, and the Law

Rethinking Archival Politics: Trust, Truth, and the Law

(p.161) 9 Rethinking Archival Politics: Trust, Truth, and the Law
Processing the Past

Francis X. Blouin Jr.

William G. Rosenberg (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

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

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