The State Historical Society of Missouri has tried to make headway organizing its holdings of Members’ papers. But shifting funding priorities have prolonged an already tedious process.
Former Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton’s (D) papers, which are held by the historical society, were in reasonable organizational shape at their time of submission in 1986, according to Tom Miller, senior manuscript specialist at the society. But the papers have not yet been fully cataloged.
Miller said it’s difficult even for a fully staffed center to keep up.
“If we had twice the staff, we would still be unable to process it in a timely fashion,” he said.
The sheer volume of paper has sparked a debate on whether a greater share of personal papers should be digitized. Switching to an electronic format not only cuts down the herculean task of transporting thousands of papers, but also makes the material accessible to a wider audience.
Digital records make it possible for researchers across the world to delve into the papers of historical figures that might be housed thousands of miles away faster and without traveling.
But digitization cuts both ways. The size and scope of some collections make it nearly impossible to digitize every single piece, so some parts of the same documentary record might be available online while others are available only in the original format.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.