Redefining the (R)evolution: Declassifying Government Secrets in the Era of Transparency

Frances Ruth Nichols, David Ownby


Libraries are in the unique position to bridge the gap between users who desire information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and declassified archived manuscripts. This task can be accomplished by acollective effort by the institutions of the United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the federal depository library system, and public-private partnerships to ensure formerly classified materials are widely accessible to the public in both physical and digital forms. However, there are obstacles facing this proposed project. Many classified materials are currently published by their controlling agencies with no policy to ensure the general public or the broader community of international scholars may access the documents. Open access is also under duress due to resurgent concerns of national security. Such an effort is pressing as the United States’ federal government starts to publish archived documents and resources from the Second World War era, particularly those materials relating to the Manhattan Project and other contemporary research projects. These obstacles must be overcome in order to ensure that the historical legacy of this period is preserved and that researchers will be able to examine and analyze these invaluable primary resources for decades to come.

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