by Jeremy Young | 1/03/2009 10:28:00 AM
History Carnival 72 is up at The Vapour Trail. Congratulations to Ralph Brauer, whose series on racism in the mortgage crisis made the Carnival this month.

The 2008 Cliopatria Awards are also up -- congratulations to the winners! I was involved in judging a couple of the categories this year, and I was very impressed with the sheer number of excellent blogs out there, many of which I'd never heard of. (On a side note, I was somewhat disappointed by how many excellent blogs didn't get nominated -- people need to be more active with making nominations, even self-nominations!)

James Reston mentions in this Smithsonian article that the Frost-Nixon interview "was all but forgotten two years ago, when the Nixon interviews were radically transformed into a piece of entertainment, first as the play Frost/Nixon, and now as a Hollywood film of the same title." I can personally vouch for the accuracy of that statement. In early 2007, when I was working for a historical research firm, I was assigned to copy some film clips and documents for use in a Nixon documentary. The items were located in the Nixon Archives, which at the time was housed at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, MD. Among the clips the filmmaker wanted was one from the televised portion of the Frost-Nixon interview. Generally, audiovisual items held by the Nixon Archives are retained as an original copy held in the closed stacks of the archives, and reference copies of these items would be made by the archivists the first time a researcher asked to view them. When I asked for a reference copy of the Frost-Nixon interview, I was told that none had ever been made, and the archivists generously created one for my use. That is to say, in the twenty-nine years since Frost interviewed Nixon, no one had ever gone into the Nixon Archives and asked to see the tape.

What's on your mind?

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5 Comments:


Anonymous Maarja on 1/04/2009 6:57 PM:

Hi, Jeremy! I was very interested in your account of research at NARA's Nixon Presidential Materials Project at College Park. It's true that NARA generally would retain what archivists call the master in its stacks and make a reference duplicate to serve researchers for viewing. I actually would not have steered a researcher to College Park to get a copy of the Nixon/Frost interviews although I would have sent him or her there for other material. But I'm glad to hear you obtained copies there, anyway.

The Nixon Presidential Library is a split facility, with locations both in California and the Washington suburbs. From 1977 to 2007, the National Archives held Nixon's records in various locations in the Washington, DC area.

Although NARA accepted the Nixon Presidential Library at Yorba Linda into its system of libraries in July 2007, the records temporarily still are being held at College Park. The Yorba Linda facility has been undergoing renovation which needs to be completed before it can acquire the textual and audio-visual materials from Nixon's administration.

The Nixon audio tapes for 1974 still remain unreleased except for portions dealing with Watergate. There was an informal understanding that as long as federal archivists at College Park were preparing unreleased audio tape segments of Nixon's Presidential conversations for public disclosure, they would have access to textual material in the White House Special Files.

Back to Frost/Nixon. NARA largely holds the records of the federal government. By law, it holds the records of Nixon's White House tenure (1969-1974). The Frost interviews were non-governmental -- they derived from a commercial enterprise. And they took place after Nixon resigned. He was a private citizen at that point. Not only are the interviews non-governmental, they are post-Presidential and not covered by the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act. NARA's Nixon Project may well have had a copy -- it collects some post-Presidential material on a selective basis -- but had you asked me, I would have steered you to the copyright holder for copies, instead.

I started working at NARA's Nixon Project in December 1976. While I remember discussing the Frost interviews with colleagues at NARA when they were broadcast in May 1977, I don't remember if and how NARA obtained a copy of the interviews. It would not be the copyright holder, of course, and could not grant permission for re-use. (By contrast, U.S. government-produced material is not copyrighted.) At any rate, glad to hear things worked out well for you at NARA! Did you work with my former NARA colleague Steve Greene? He has a long institutional memory, having joined the staff in the 1980s, as I recall.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Maarja

 

Blogger Jeremy Young on 1/04/2009 9:46 PM:

Maarja, happy new year to you as well! Mr. Greene was actually my primary contact at the Nixon Project, and he was exceptionally friendly and helpful -- very much above and beyond the call of duty. I also met briefly with David Paynter, about whom I can say the same.

To be fair to our client, he had started with the copyright holder (the BBC, I think), who had told him they would license the copyright to him but had no extant copy of the film! Thankfully NARA came through with the tape.

 

Anonymous Maarja on 1/05/2009 5:54 AM:

Thanks for the explanation, that makes sense. Glad to hear Steve Greene was so very helpful and good to deal with, as I knew he would be! Dave Paynter also is a former colleague, as he briefly worked with me in NARA's Office of Presidential Libraries (late 1970s or very early 1980s, as I recall). He has worked on some Freedom of Information Act issues in recent years. My late sister Eva, who used to be in charge of declassifying State Department records at NARA, also knew him as she worked for a time on FOIA-related duties.

I guess you've heard from the National Coalition for History newletter that Condi Rice has established a group to look in to the State history office and FRUS issues.

All my best,

Maarja

 

Blogger Ralph Brauer on 1/15/2009 12:22 PM:

I have been so out of it (car wreck) that I have no checked in for awhile. Thank you for the nomination, the recognition and publishing the essays.

 

Blogger Ahistoricality on 1/15/2009 11:13 PM:

Ralph: you ok? Everyone else OK?