School of Information Sciences

James King publishes "Say Nothing" in Archives and Records


A paper by School of Information Sciences (the iSchool) doctoral student James Allison King is highlighted by publisher Routledge for presenting some strong arguments and a different angle on the implications of the Boston College subpoenas. King is a second-year doctoral student in the Library and Information Science program where he works with Dr. Richard Cox. His current research interests lie in the intersection of archives and questions of cultural memory and conflict, particularly those addressing how archives function within communities fractured by war and other historical traumas. 

Silencing the voices of Northern Ireland’s history
There is a threat to preserving the historical record of the Northern Ireland Troubles which may be as hazardous as any fire or flood. In a new article published in the journal Archives and Records James Allison King warns that the fallout from a recent intervention by the British Government risks silencing people’s accounts that would otherwise have been put on record.

In his paper, ‘Say nothing’: silenced records and the Boston College subpoenas, King examines the ‘Belfast Project’ at Boston College, a ground-breaking oral history endeavour in which interviews gave valuable and previously unheard accounts of the Irish conflict. Those contributing were promised that the recordings wouldn’t be released until after their death. However, investigations by the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Historic Enquiries Team into the 1972 murder of Jean McConville intervened. This resulted in the relevant interviews being subpoenaed by the US Federal Government at the request of the UK. An ongoing court battle has succeeded in limiting the number of oral histories to be released for now.

King argues that the unlocking of these sealed records and the ensuing distrust may have far-reaching implications for historical truth. Current efforts to prematurely unlock the Belfast Project archive could paradoxically deepen the secrets of the Troubles by freezing present and future projects to retrieve previously unheard voices. King also warns that it may have consequences beyond Northern Ireland for capturing the oral histories of other armed conflicts. If participants cannot be assured of confidentiality during their lifetime, will ongoing silence be the end result?

James Allison King, “‘Say nothing’: silenced records and the Boston College subpoenas” in Archives and Records: The Journal of the Archives and Records Association, published by Routledge. Read the full article online.

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