Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Archives Family Feud

Two stories off the radar scope today regarding archives.

The first involves the children of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King. Dexter King, who is the executor of his father's estate, is seeking control over his mother's papers, which are currently in the possession of his sister, Bernice. At the root of the issue is a book deal, which Bernice maintains her mother did not want to be a part of, leading to her reluctance to turn over the materials. The judge named to mediate the dispute has postponed his decision until an inventory of the materials can be made (we archivists call that a finding aid!). Dexter is at odds with his sister and his brother, Martin III, and the three communicate only through lawyers. Bernice and Martin III released a statement after the latest court appearance that read:
"We are saddened that we are forced to make public statements about family matters that should be handled privately. However, as our father taught us, we must respond to unjust criticism ... Our stand against the publication of the memoirs of our mother ... is not merely a family feud but rather our ongoing attempt to protect and maintain the integrity of our mother's legacy. Although she is no longer here to speak for herself, it is important that the integrity and validity of her voice be reflected."
In this particular situation, what would normally be a private matter is being played out in the national media. It is an interesting issue regarding the right of private citizens (although in this case, the King children are themselves public figures) to do what they wish with their archival materials. If the archival materials belong to a significant historical figure, what responsibility to the public do the descendants have?

The second story appeared in the Washington Post and concerns the papers of scientist Wernher von Braun. A series of articles he wrote were published in Collier's Magazine between 1952 and 1954, long before the creation of NASA, and concerned space travel. Collier's ceased publication in 1957 and the articles, notes, and illustrations went into private hands. An auction was held today and sold for $132,000.

von Braun, who defected to the United States from Germany during World War II, was involved in the creation of NASA [which celebrated its 50th Anniversary on October 1] and headed the Marshall Space Flight Center from 1960 to 1970. von Braun died in 1977.


Leigh Russell said...

Sorry to be random but I found you on Erin's blog and had to ask - how can a brave astronaut be scared of spiders?

Hint to any single man hoping to find a wife one day - never admit to being scared of spiders.

Leigh Russell said...

Just realised I wrote Erin when I meant Eryl. Sorry!

Brave Astronaut said...

Leigh - I may be a brave astronaut, but a big wussy when it comes to spiders. Good thing I have a wife who takes care of the spiders for me. Welcome to the orbit. Come back anytime.