"Whatever you say, you say nothing" : archives and the Belfast Project
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With a subpoena in one hand and a donor agreement in the other, what choice should an ethical archivist make? Since the legal battle over the Belfast Project—a collection of oral histories from Northern Irish paramilitaries about their involvement in the Troubles—at Boston College erupted in 2011, such a scenario has become a reality. With U.S. attorneys demanding access in the name of truth and justice, and historians advocating denial for the sake of scholarship and honor, the archival profession is facing some troubling legal and ethical issues. Regardless of the ultimate fate of the Belfast Project, the archival field will have to adapt to a new reality. This reality will have to consider the effects of the law and oral history practices on archives. Should archives be granted privilege recognized within the legal system? Should there be oversight for oral histories? Should archives offer privacy protections for third parties? How can the archival community address these issues? This thesis will use the Belfast Project to analyze legal and ethical issues facing archivists and explore what this means for the future of the profession.