Elizabeth Hamer Kegan delivered her presidential address at the 1976 annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) held in Washington, D.C.  She held positions both at the National Archives and then at the Library of Congress where she applied her abilities in editing and in organizing exhibitions.  Her talents were prominently displayed with the Library’s American Revolution Bicentennial Program.  Her presidential address was published in the January 1977 issue of the American Archivist.  She died in March 1979.

Kegan’s presidential address was shaped by her commitment to collecting and publishing archival documents — as well as by the 1976 bicentennial celebration.  She commented extensively on the anecdotes and analyses of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison.  And just as her husband had in SAA presidential address, she cited the letter from Jefferson to Ebenezer Hazard in which he lent his support to the publication of records from the Revolutionary era.  (Her title also comes from Hazard.)  Echoing Hamer’s speech from 15 years earlier, Kegan credited the National Historical Publications Commission with “the renaissance of documentary historical publication” in the mid-20th century (9).  She highlighted the shortcomings of microfilm as compared to documentary publications, pointing out the need for targets, descriptive notes, and indexing in order for a reel to be useful — and with this amount of effort invested, the work might as well be published in an easier-to-read format.  She contended that the value of documentary publication projects lay in their efforts to amass information from a variety of sources, thereby creating “an entirely new resource for research” (10).  She also cited a letter written by Julian P. Boyd, the editor  of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, to Paul Smith, the editor of the Letters of Delegates to Congress, in which Boyd complimented Smith for his work in clarifying the sequence of events on July 4, 1776:

“‘Your discovery is an important one and adds one more proof to the growing accumulation that documentary editing can make contributions to knowledge that cannot be made by other means.  This, of course, does not come about merely because of the assemblage of large masses of records about a man or an institution.  It results from the obligation placed upon the editor to do something that a camera or a computer cannot do: to read, to understand, to probe for
the context, and to make all the necessary correlations'” (12).

Kegan looked at documentary publications as a means of providing greater access to archival materials.  In this context, she asserted that archivists have a duty to “encourage and influence the making and the keeping of an adequate record” (12).  With this in mind, she lamented the IRS tax code that did not provide adequate tax deductions to incentivize individuals to donate personal papers to archival institutions.  This consideration of private papers led her to comment on the situation with the Nixon tapes and papers — where her predecessors had sidestepped the issue, Kegan chronicled the succession of judicial and legislative actions that brought his presidential records under the control of the National Archives.  As a part of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, signed by President Ford in 1974, the National Study Commission on Records and Documents of Federal Officials was created to consider “the problems relating to the preservation and status, not only of the papers of Presidents but also those of cabinet members, other high-level appointees, as well as Members of Congress, and [make] recommendations to Congress for appropriate legislation” (13).  She listed a number of questions facing this new commission regarding the papers of public officials — especially determining when the papers are evidence of public business and when they are private papers.  The questions she raised about monitoring and disposition still have relevance today, especially given recent revelations about State Department emails.  She concluded, “only out of the complete record can truth and understanding emerge” (14).

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