The quantity, breadth, complexity, and relevancy of our records are never more apparent than when the National Archives and Records Administration and the Presidential Libraries are called upon to process and make available the Presidential records of Supreme Court nominees.
As the stewards of Presidential records, we take pride in this responsibility and recognize that our work supports our democratic institutions in this crucial decision-making process.
On Friday, the Clinton Presidential Library, one of the 13 Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives, made available online more than 75,000 pages of records relating to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan. This latest batch of records includes emails written by Kagan during the four years she spent in the Clinton White House. In total, almost 170,000 pages have now been made publicly available.
Image 1: Kagan Email Example (see citation below)
Image 2: Kagan Email Example (see citation below)
This has been a herculean task.
Since May 10, 2010, 16 archivists, 6 archival technicians, and a supervisory archivist have put in over 6,000 hours on the job — working every Saturday, Sunday, and Memorial Day — in order to process and make available almost 170,000 pages of records. The Director of the Clinton Presidential Library, Terri Garner, expertly managed the entire process, ensuring that we met incredibly tight deadlines. Additionally, I must call attention to the extraordinary dedication of two NARA employees, Dana Simmons and John Laster, who worked nearly 60 hours a week.
I’m proud of their sense of urgency to serve our democracy. Their dedication allowed us to fulfill Congressional and White House requests to expedite the release of records.
Image 3: Elena Kagan Memo Example (see citation below)
Image 4: Kagan Notes Example (see citation below)
For the Clinton Library staff, the process of making material related to Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan available involved multiple steps, including identifying responsive records and then performing arrangement, preservation, and descriptive work. The staff conducted a time-consuming line-by-line review of all material in accordance with the provisions of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Almost 170,000 pages of responsive records were then scanned and posted to the Clinton Library website in order to make them available to the widest possible audience in the shortest time span. Providing this online and electronic access to the public and Senate Judiciary Committee also involved extensive preparation of the documents so that they could be scanned while maintaining the archival integrity of the collection. This required vigilance on the part of the Clinton Library staff. Several quality control checks have been done to make sure nothing was lost or misplaced.
After all this work, it’s up to the public and the Senate Judiciary Committee to make their interpretations of the records.
I’m reminded of a recent interview of Ray Bradbury, the esteemed author. After graduating from high school, he went to the library three nights a week for almost ten years. He said the difference between his self-education and a college education was
“The library, on the other hand, has no biases. The information is all there for you to interpret. You don’t have someone telling you what to think. You discover it for yourself.”
We’ve made available online almost 170,000 pages of Presidential records relating to Elena Kagan. Now we leave it up to you to discover and interpret. Isn’t our American democracy amazing?
For Further Information:
- William J. Clinton Presidential Library at http://www.clintonlibrary.gov
- Presidential Libraries at http://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries/
- Clinton Presidential Records Pertaining to Elena Kagan at http://go.usa.gov/36I
- Image 1: Elena Kagan, Email to Barry Toiv on Welfare Directive, August 22, 1996; Elena Kagan ARMS/TRP – E-mail Composed, Box 11 (WHO), E011-002 [7/16/1996-8/23/1996], pg. 84; Clinton Presidential Library, Little Rock, AR; http://go.usa.gov/36X
- Image 2: Elena Kagan, Email to Sylvia M. Mathews and Bruce N. Reed on Bilingual Education, October 22, 1997; Elena Kagan ARMS/TRP – E-mail Composed, Box 4 (OPD), E004-005 [10/7/1997-10/29/1997], pg. 73; Clinton Presidential Library, Little Rock, AR; http://go.usa.gov/369
- Image 3: Elena Kagan, Memorandum for Bruce Lindsey, March 31, 1996; Elena Kagan Domestic Policy Council, Box 70, 070-004 Memos, pg. 21; Clinton Presidential Library, Little Rock, AR; http://go.usa.gov/368
- Image 4: Elena Kagan, Notes on Utah Wilderness, July 19, 1996; Elena Kagan Office of White House Counsel, Box 4, 004-009 Utah Wilderness, Pg. 2; Clinton Presidential Library, Little Rock, AR; http://go.usa.gov/360
- “Ray Bradbury: The Art of Fiction No. 203” Interviewed by Sam Weller at http://www.theparisreview.org/viewinterview.php/prmMID/6012