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How hard is it to get NARA records about NARA?

Anthony Clark, an independent researcher writing a book on the politics and history of presidential libraries, has written a provocative piece on access to National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) records about administration of Presidential Libraries:

Clark claims that NARA is “improperly withholding its own records.” He says that as part of NARA’s job of overseeing the twelve presidential libraries, it has records that detail the development of the libraries through 1964, when NARA created the Office of Presidential Libraries (NL), but none of NL’s records are available. NARA is calling these records “operational,” which makes them available only through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Clark quotes Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, as saying, “It is hard to understand how records that are old enough to have been destroyed if the records schedule had been followed can be considered ‘operational.’ Presidential libraries are an area of keen congressional and public interest and information about them held by NARA should be affirmatively disclosed to the greatest extent possible.”

Clark’s article has produced an extensive discussion and Comments, including the NARA Response by Gary M. Stern on July 24, 2008.

Kate at ArchivesNext has posted a thoughtful response after talking off the record to archives staff: Access to records of the National Archives, July 24th, 2008.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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