‘Say nothing’: silenced records and the Boston College subpoenas

‘Say nothing’: silenced records and the Boston College subpoenas
Archives and Records: The Journal of the Archives and Records Association
James Allison King

DOI:10.1080/23257962.2013.859573 Published online: 31 Jan 2014

Abstract

How will subpoenas for Boston College’s sealed Irish Republican Army oral histories affect future attempts to archive the Troubles and armed conflict in general? To answer this question, the author examines the long-term implications of subpoenaing Boston College’s Belfast Project, arguing that the subpoenas present a case study of the little-recognized preservation hazard of silenced or uncreated records. The author situates the case within the context of the two types of wartime preservation hazards: the destruction or obfuscation of extant record and the silencing of records that otherwise would have been created. In order to show subpoenas’ grave implications on the archive’s mission to record the full story of the Troubles for future generations, the article places the Belfast Project within the context of other Northern Irish and international archival projects. Ultimately, the author intends to demonstrate the relevance of the case to archivists, arguing that the Boston College subpoenas pose a preservation risk as hazardous as any fire or explosion by threatening to silence records that otherwise would have been created and thereby creating irreparable holes in the historical record of the Troubles.

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Keywords:
Boston College subpoenas, Belfast Project, archives, silence, preservation, armed conflict, Troubles, Northern Ireland, oral history

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