Pitt Series, Archival Agitators and Advocates, Explores Issues Surrounding Preservation of Public Records

Issue Date: 
February 9, 2009


Archives—those repositories of the present for accountability of the past—require more than simply collecting papers. To compile and maintain an archive requires a dogged adherence to transparency, social and historical context, and, in some cases, a sense of purpose, as nationally known archivists will attest in the lecture series Archival Agitators and Advocates, hosted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences (iSchool). The iSchool’s Institute for Information Ethics and Policy is cosponsoring the series with the Pitt student chapter of the Society of American Archivists.

Speakers ranging from the Seneca Nation’s head archivist to a staunch critic of executive privilege in the White House will discuss the preservation of public knowledge and records in light of personal privacy, government and corporate activities, and intellectual property. These issues involve equipping a new generation of archivists so they can become more effective advocates for their programs and the archival mission.

Each one-hour lecture will begin at 11 a.m. in Room 501 of the Information Sciences Building. An informal 10:30 a.m. coffee session with the speaker will precede each event. The lectures are free and open to the public. Lecture dates and brief biographies of the speakers follow.

Wednesday, Feb. 11

Scholar Anthony Clark will offer dispatches from his ongoing exploration of every presidential library in the United States in his lecture “Presidential Libraries: The Last Campaign; How Presidents Rewrite History, Run for Posterity, and Enshrine Their Legacies.” Clark is completing a history of the presidential libraries, a project that has taken him to every U.S. presidential library, where he has evaluated the experiences of visitors to these institutions; interviewed docents, guards, and library staff; worked in their public research rooms; and examined the administrative and other files in and about these institutions. Clark has worked for the past 17 years as an information technology consultant and writer. From 2004 to 2005, he was the director of planning and information technology for the Washington, D.C.-based Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, which has been described as a presidential library for the Pope.

Friday, Feb. 20

David L. George-Shongo Jr., archivist for the Seneca Nation, will discuss the creation and challenges of the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials, conventions designed by tribal and nontribal archivists to ensure the safe and respectful acquisition and use of Native American documents, records, and historical accounts. In his lecture “The Protocols for Native American Archival Materials and the Future of Archival Work,” George-Shongo addresses the specific challenges of implementing the protocols, such as considering and working with various tribal values, cultures, and knowledge systems. George-Shongo became the first archivist for the Seneca Nation in 2004 and, in 2005, the first chair of the Society of American Archivist’s Native American Archives Roundtable. He was re-elected to that position in 2006 and served until 2007.

Friday, April 10

Bruce P. Montgomery, faculty director of archives at the University of Colorado at Boulder (UCB), frames the future of archival studies within the battle over Presidential executive privilege that has pitted the White House against Congress and the public since the 1970s. In his lecture, “From Richard M. Nixon to George W. Bush: Government Secrecy and the Archival Profession,” Montgomery says that as the three branches of government fought over the proper limits of open government—issues that should have been of vital concern to archivists—the archival profession mostly traveled a timid path during the past 30 years. The question now is whether the profession has sufficiently emerged as a vibrant field that it is willing to address the most salient issues of the day involving government secrecy and the public’s right to know. Montgomery is the founding director of the UCB Human Rights Initiative and a founding member of the International Federation of Human Rights Centers and Archives. He has served as an analyst of classified documents for the U.S. government and is currently a consultant for the Institute for Defense Analysis—a Pentagon-funded think tank—to help set up a digital archive of captured al-Qaeda, Taliban, and Saddam Hussein-era records.

More information on the lectures is available on the iSchool Web site at www.ischool.pitt.edu/archivalagitators.