Newsletter of
The Maryland State Archives

On April 4 State Archivist, Edward C. Papenfuse, spoke at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Memphis, TN. The title summarizes his topic: "The Critical Importance of Preserving the Historical Context of the Law in an Authoritative, Permanent, and Readily Accessible Electronic Environment." Although focused on constitutional and legal records, the ideas expressed on accessibility and preservation can be applied to many types of historical documents, as illustrated by the following excerpts. 

"Today, as we face the questions of what we should be preserving permanently and how we should be making it accessible, our concentration should be on placing as much of the legal record as we can, as quickly as we can, into an electronic archives environment. I use the words 'electronic archives environment' deliberately and to mean a system of generic, non-proprietary, on line electronic backup and redundancy made as safe and secure as paper or microfilm can be. Such a system is possible now and can be safeguarded in the future if we do so wisely and with care. 

"Our primary role as archivists and librarians should be one of ensuring that analysis and conclusions regarding legal actions can be made independently of privately held information banks from the actual records themselves. Use the databanks and added value information services for entry access. Use them 

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for short cuts. Use them for inspiration. But preserve the essential information that relates to the legal process in a freely and readily accessible electronic environment which any user should be trained to mine. That means investing money and energy in holding on permanently to what I call the building blocks of the law: the constitutional, the legislative, and the judicial process as documented in the surviving court record and supplementary materials such as newspapers and relevant manuscript collections. It is important to stress process because we are too often convinced that the summary of what transpired is all that we need to know, yet in the dissenting opinions and losing briefs, as well as the over-turned lower court opinions, and the arguments of the minority in debates over legislation are to be found the seeds of future change. 

"Jefferson and Madison, along with the seventy-eight men who served in the 1776 Constitutional Convention of Maryland, and the hundreds of others who participated in similar conventions in other states, cared passionately about the process and the consequences of writing constitutions. Their enthusiasm was contagious. With care and diligence we can recapture most, if not all, of that passion, by carefully reconstructing what the framers thought, how they argued, and, most importantly of all, recording precisely what they produced and how their successors amended. The web provides us with the unparalleled opportunity to accomplish what Francis Newton Thorpe could not: fast, authoritative, well indexed access to the ideas, words, and arguments of those who wrote out constitutions. The result may well be a revival of the art, a renewal of the passion, for the written explanation of what government is and what government ought to be. Our charge is 
to marry the technology 

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Pyne, Tricia T. Maryland Catholic 
   Community, 1690 - 1775: A Study in
   Culture, Religion, and Church 
Rea, Leonard Owens. Financial History of 
   Baltimore 1900 - 1926
Reamy, Bill and Martha. St. Thomas' Parish
   Registers 1732 - 1850 
Rede, Kenneth, 1897? - 1934, compl. Check 
   List of Maryland Imprints, 1727 to 1820, 
   in Evergreen Library 
Rose, Thomas and Charles S. Martin. History
   of Myersville
Russell, Donna Valley. First Families of 
   Anne Arundel County, Maryland, 
   1649 - 1658, vol. 2: The Headrights