Georgetown Law Library: Should a legal right to “archival privilege” be established?

Should a legal right to “archival privilege” be established?
Due Process
Georgetown Law Library Blog
FEBRUARY 26, 2013 ·

The recent blog post, “Should a legal right to ‘archival privilege’ be established?” posted on the blog Off the Record poses an interesting question which centers around the Boston College case involving the Belfast [Oral History] Project. 

In brief, Boston College was subpoenaed on May 11, 2011 by Federal District Court for access to closed confidential oral histories that could contain information that might shed light on a murder inquiry in Northern Ireland.

While Boston College appeals the request maintaining the “confidentiality” of the oral histories and the case is “pending” in the Supreme Court, the questions among archivists linger — will confidential remain confidential and should there be an established legal right to “archival privilege”? 

This provocative blog post illustrates this current dilemma.  “Do U.S. courts currently recognize an absolute or almost absolute legal right to confidentiality for scholars or archivists? And if they do not recognize such a right, should they?” 

Many archivists have varying perspectives on this issue. Archivists have a professional duty to curate many types of materials, some of which contain confidential information.  More thought provoking is the potential outcome of this case and how it will effect what people will be willing to archive in the future, inevitably impacting what will be remembered for generations to come.