Final Acts: A Guide To Preserving the Records of Truth Commissions

Authored by archivist and Chair of the ICA’s Human Rights Working Group, Trudy Peterson, and in partnership with The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, this publication provides guidance to current and future commissions on managing their records once the work of a commission draws to a close.  Because truth commissions vary from country to country, this publication does not claim to provide answers. Peterson states that “those emerge from the individual context in which the commission operates”.

At the end of the last century, the “truth commission” emerged as a means of addressing the tumultuous violence that occurred in a country.  There are many examples from Central and South America.  A large mass of records and information flow through commissions in a short amount of time, usually to produce a report.  It is most often the case that records of truth commissions (those created previously by other institutions, as well as those contemporaneously produced and used by a commission) are difficult, if not impossible, to trace.  In keeping with the premise behind a truth commission, the records of such should eventually be made publicly accessible to ensure the transparency of the actions and decisions of the commission.

Peterson stresses that this publication is not a list of comprehensive guidelines in managing the records while still in active use.  Drawing from past and present examples, Peterson produces essential reading for assistance and insight into the proper disposition of the records of such commissions after they close.

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