Press contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940; Jill Brett (202) 707-2905
Public contact: Manuscript Division (202) 707-5387

February 24, 2004


Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun Papers Open on March 4 at Library of Congress

Special Procedures Explained

The Harry A. Blackmun Papers—one of the largest collections of judicial papers at the Library of Congress—will open to scholars, historians, the media and the general public at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 4, in the Manuscript Reading Room, located on the first floor of the Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. In anticipation of wide public interest, the Manuscript Reading Room will continue to remain open until 9:30 p.m. on March 4 to accommodate readers. It will also be open during its regular research hours on Saturdays, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Harry A. Blackmun (1908-1999) was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, and he served until his retirement in 1994 at the age of 85. In May 1997, Blackmun gave his papers to the Library of Congress where they joined the papers of 38 other justices and chief justices of the court, including Thurgood Marshall, Earl Warren, Charles Evans Hughes and Hugo Black.

At the time of his gift, Blackmun stipulated that the papers should not be opened to the general public until five years after his death, although the terms of the instrument of gift authorized the executors of his estate to grant access to researchers during that period of time.

Because Justice Blackmun was at the center of numerous cases that have defined the social discourse of the last 30 years—abortion, affirmative action and the death penalty—the Library is taking the following special measures to ensure equitable access to the collection and to safeguard the papers and documents contained in it.

Public online access to Blackmun Papers Collection Guide. The 362-page guide (finding aid) describing the Blackmun papers will be available on the Library’s public Web site,, at 12:01 a.m., Thursday, March 4.

Provisions for media representatives. A temporary press room will be established in Room LM 139 (across the hall from Reader Registration), with paper copies of the collection guide; paper copies of the 500-page transcript of interviews of Justice Blackmun by Harold Koh, his former law clerk; and computers with networked printers to access the materials that are available on the Library’s internal Web site. These include the case files for Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, Callins v. Collins, Bowers v. Hardwick, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke and Buckley v. Valeo.

The videotapes of the Koh-Blackmun interviews will also be available on these dedicated computers in the press room as well as the transcript of these interviews.

Materials on these locked-down computers can be neither downloaded nor e-mailed. Media representatives, who must show a press ID for admission to the press room, will not need a reader registration card to use the surrogate materials in this press room.

However, members of the media who want to view other materials from the Blackmun papers will have to use them in the Manuscript Reading Room and will need to have a Library of Congress reader registration card; it should be obtained in person in LM 140 of the Madison Building before March 4. There is no cost, but a driver’s license or passport with photo is required in order to obtain a reader card.

Access to the Manuscript Reading Room. Access to the Blackmun papers will be on a first-come, first-served basis. All readers, including members of the media, must have a reader registration card to enter this Reading Room. Users will also be required to sign a separate registration form in the Manuscript Reading Room. No more than two representatives of a specific publication or news service will be admitted to this reading room at one time.

Time limits in the Manuscript Reading Room on March 4. Members of the media and other patrons will be limited to a four-hour time frame in the morning, afternoon or evening on March 4, if the number of researchers exceeds the number of 75-plus seats in the reading room. The reading room will be cleared of all users at the end of that period of time, and after a half-hour interval, the next group will be allowed entry. The time periods are: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; 1 to 5 p.m.; and 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Two reader shifts (8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1 to 5 p.m.) will remain in effect for succeeding days if demand by researchers for access to the Blackmun papers continues to exceed the seating capacity of the reading room.

Personal belongings. Readers, as always, are required to store all personal belongings, including coats, briefcases, notebooks and pens in the cloakroom of the reader registration station, LM 140, or in the lockers in the Manuscript Reading Room. Paper and pencils for taking notes will be provided in the reading room. Readers may bring in their own laptop computers.

Security. Suit jackets, sport coats, sweaters with pockets and other similar items of clothing will be inspected by security personnel both before researchers enter the reading room and again when they exit the reading room.

Overflow provisions. If the number of patrons exceeds the number of seats available in the Manuscript Reading Room, media representatives may sign up for a later shift in the reading room and, in the interim, use the computers in the press room to review the Blackmun materials that are online.

Process for requesting items from Blackmun papers in the Manuscript Reading Room. Original documents that have been scanned and are available online will not be served to patrons in the Manuscript Reading Room; however, a surrogate paper copy will be available. Other original materials can be requested from the reference staff at the central desk in the reading room on a first-come, first-served basis. Reference staff may impose a limit on the number of boxes that can be requested by any one patron if others are waiting to use the same materials.

Copyright restrictions. The status of copyright in material in the Harry A. Blackmun Collection is governed by the Copyright Act of 1976, as amended (Title 17, USC). Although in his instrument of gift to the Library of Congress Justice Blackmun dedicated to the public all rights (including copyrights) he possessed in the collection, there are materials in the collection for which Blackmun did not own the copyrights. Since the Library of Congress does not hold the copyright in any of the materials in this collection, it can neither grant nor deny permission to publish or quote from them. It is the obligation of researchers and users of the Blackmun papers to fulfill the requirements of the Copyright Act for their use of any of the materials in the collection.

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PR 04-032
ISSN 0731-3527

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