October 25, 2010

History Professor to Help Complete Project on Founding Fathers

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Prof. Mary Beth Norton, history, was recently selected by David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, to be part of a three-person committee mandated by Congress that will collaborate to complete the Founding Fathers publication project. This project will compile all documents written by George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, and publish them in volumes with special introductions and annotations.

President of the University of Richmond Edward Ayers, and Prof. David Hackett Fischer, history, Brandeis University, will join Norton on the committee.

For Norton, the creation of this special committee is an attempt to advance the project, which has been in the works since the 1940s with “little progress.”

According to The Washington Post, groups of scholars have been working since the Truman administration to compile and annotate the letters, correspondence and documents of these founding fathers. Until 2007, approximately $58 million had been spent on the project.

“Several organizations, such as the National Historical Publications and Records Commissions, are certainly frustrated about how much time the projects are taking to be completed, despite the great amount of money invested on them by the federal government,” Norton said.

In 2007, a study by the NHPRC revealed that the Washington papers will not be finished until 2023 and that the Adams papers, consisting of 59 volumes, will not be done until 2050.

Although she lacks concrete information of what will be the committee’s actual responsibilities, Norton said she expects to discuss questions as to whether the papers should be published in print volumes or on the Internet. Ayers will play a crucial role in resolving this issue, given his expertise on publishing historical materials electronically, Norton said.

The committee will hold its first meeting on December 13 but has no timetable for completion of the project.

The University of Virginia Press recently announced that it will upload the already published papers of Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin on a National Archives website that will be accessible to the public by 2012.

Original Author: Patricio Martinez