Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Robert F. Kennedy Papers--The Saga Continues

The struggle over the papers of Robert F. Kennedy continues. We previously blogged about papers dating from Kennedy's time as Attorney General, held by the John F. Kennedy Library, but closed to researchers because the Kennedy family refused to grant full public access. On March 1, the presidential library decided to open up the sixty-three closed boxes, and archivists have been "organizing and declassifying" the papers since then; this work should take between six months to a year to complete.

An article in today's New York Times brings the saga up to date. According to the Times,

As archivists prepare to make public 63 boxes of Robert F. Kennedy's papers at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, his family members are having second thoughts about where they should be housed and are considering moving them elsewhere because they believe that the presidential library has not done enough to honor the younger brother's legacy.

The family never transferred title to the papers to the Kennedy Library, and they have expressed the desire that they be held in a facility that would do more to memorialize Robert F. Kennedy. Family members point out that President Kennedy is memorialized by his presidential library, and that the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate is in construction. There is nothing similar for Robert F. Kennedy. The Kennedy library offered to name a wing for Robert F. Kennedy if the family would transfer title to the papers, but the family refused, saying "'They offered to put the name on a hallway.'"

Because the family feels disrespected by the presidential library, they have had talks with other institutions and universities about housing the papers there. Should the family attempt to move them, the issue of ownership of the papers would move to the forefront. The family believes it has "right" to the papers, while "ownership of papers from Robert Kennedy's years at the Justice Department might be disputed under the Presidential Records Act." Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history, "says he hopes the Kennedy Library finds a way to properly honor Robert Kennedy's legacy. ... But no matter what is done, you will always stand in the shadow of a brother who was president."

No comments: