School of Information Sciences


iSchool PhD Student Invited to Give Keynote Address at ARA 2015 Conference in Dublin

James KingJames King, a Library and Information Sciences PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences, has been invited to give the keynote address at the UK & Ireland Archives & Records Association Annual Conference (ARA 2015) in Dublin this summer.

This is quite an accomplishment, as James was invited to deliver the keynote well before even defending his Dissertation Proposal. Professor Sheila Corrall from Pitt’s School of Information Sciences explains that “it’s very unusual for a recently completed PhD to be invited to deliver a keynote -- but to invite a student at this stage in their career is unprecedented.”

The invite came after a paper James wrote entitled “‘Say nothing’: silenced records and the Boston College subpoenas” was submitted and subsequently published in the ARA’s Journal in 2014. His paper explores how the Boston College case might affect future archival projects that seek to record conflicts and potentially contribute to reconciliation.

Unlike most other oral history projects focused on recording the recollections of civilian victims and politicians, the Belfast Project (sponsored by the Burns Library Archive of Boston College) sought to capture the oral histories of paramilitaries who were active during the early days of the Troubles. Each of the IRA members and supporters who were interviewed as part of the project were assured by Boston College that none of the material recorded as part of their oral histories could be used until and unless the interviewee consented or had died. However, in May 2011, the U.S. federal government subpoenaed Boston College for the notes and audiotapes of two IRA operatives who were suspects in an unrelated murder case. 

Concerned about the potential implications that the release of the Boston College’s sealed IRA oral histories could have on future attempts to archive the Troubles and armed conflict in general, James argues that these subpoenas “pose a preservation risk as hazardous as any fire, threatening to silence records that otherwise would have been created and thereby creating irreparable holes in the historical record of the Troubles.” His argument begins by locating this often-overlooked threat within the broader scope of archival literature regarding wartime destruction of historical records and archives. In particular, James places the case within the context of the two types of wartime preservation hazards: the destruction or obfuscation of extant record and the silencing of records that otherwise would have been created.

James’s research interests include archives and issues of memory and social justice, archives and oral history, and information ethics. James recently defended his dissertation proposal at the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences on April 30, 2015. Congratulations, James!

Learn more about ARA 2015 at

Citation: King, James. "'Say Nothing': Silenced Records and the Boston College Subpoenas." Archives and Records: The Journal of the Archives and Records Association 35.1 (Spring 2014): 1-16.

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