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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.