Monday, August 9, 2010

Archival trepidations

I enjoyed Claire Potter's recent post on what to do with bits of private lives that show up in the archive.
Do I risk losing the trust of second-wave feminists now collaborating with me if I seem to have bad judgment? (I'm thinking the answer to this is yes.) Should you publish any document about a person of interest that you wouldn't want published about yourself? And yet, why did these women leave these love notes in their papers if they didn't want me to know?

I'm having a related problem with Twain, although it's not really a matter of professional ethics in this case. Some of Twain's papers are just, well, embarrassing. The Twain that's mourning Susy is just a little too raw, and when he needs to be raw, he turns to the conventional. I feel like I'm intruding, and the weirdest part is that I'm intruding on something that is, in a way, utterly boilerplate--and that's embarrassing, too.

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