Thursday, February 28, 2013

National Archives May Hold Kameny Files

(Page 1 of the reply.)

In response to my FOIA request for any and all files potentially held by the National Archives and Records Administration related to gay icon Frank Kameny, the agency basically says I or another researcher needs to visit the archives and search their holdings.

NARA says nothing about potential Kameny files and instead the agency suggests I search the source notes of David K. Johnson's book "The Lavender Scare: the Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government", and they sent those notes. Unfortunately, Johnson's sources don't state if he used documents held by NARA in what he wrote about Kameny. From the reply:

The records are open for public viewing and there are no access restrictions on them.

Since these files from NARA listed in the volume are widely dispersed, we cannot undertake the extensive research necessary to examine the records and identify the pertinent documents. Our staff can assist researchers with their work but cannot perform substantive research for them. We will make the records available in our research room so you or your representative can examine and select documents for reproduction.

We will be pleased to make the finding aids to these records available to you or your representative in our research room at the National Archives in College Park, MD.
(Page 2 of the reply.)

I turned to a gay researcher long familiar with NARA, Michael Dolan, who until recently resided in Washington and now lives in upstate New York, for his opinion of the reply and suggestions to comb through the archives:

That letter sounds honest enough and is a pretty standard response.  It's true that you do have to be onsite to really find things. Like they said, there are many different collections and material on one specific subject could be spread around several places, not just within each location but spread out among the various NARA locations, which include the Presidential Libraries.   

That is why people travel from all over the world and practically set up camp there to do research . . . perhaps someone in the DC area could go to College Park, MD and the downtown Archives with this information and one of the archivists would be able to help them navigate finding aids and fill out pull slips.
Let's hope an enterprising LGBT researcher develops an interest in spending a few hours at the National Archives and seeing what they may contain about the life and advocacy of Kameny.

1 comment:

Rusty said...

Searching the archives and Presidential libraries would be an interesting project, and could provide material another book, more specifically on Kameny.

Think about it, Michael.