By Jeremy Alford & Sarah Gamard
A legislatively-created task force has been touring the state visiting as many locales as possible that hold historic Louisiana documents, from universities and clerks’ offices to courthouses and private foundations.
But the research has become so time-consuming, and archiving needs so profound, that Sen. Mike Walsworth said the task force may ask for an extension beyond its March 2018 expiration.
“We’d like to be ready to ask for legislation by then,” said Walsworth, chairman of the Historical Archives Task Force, “but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
The task force is currently in a “fact-finding” phase, but it’s beginning to narrow its scope of interest:
— What are some of the “new needs” facing archivists? For example, the standards for storing microfilm are growing outdated and the mere passage of time is requiring new and sometimes costly techniques.
— How can public entities stretch their dollars? The idea of a university, for instance, sharing its high-speed scanner with a sheriff’s office in rural Louisiana is appealing to some task force members. The same goes for eliminating duplications in specialities or subject matter.
— Who has what? Walsworth said that in just about every Louisiana courthouse there are historical papers that date back to the 1700s, hiding idly in file cabinets. Making sure people know they exist, and where to find them, is an important charge. “We want people to be more interested in it,” Walsworth said. “We’d like for people to, at the end of the day, go looking.”
— Do you trash it or preserve it? Don’t forget, physical storage space is becoming a problem and some entities are housing “floors upon floors of boxes” of archives. “You can’t keep everything,” Walsworth said.
— What’s next for the archival of modern documents and records? With politicians relying on email for press releases, YouTube for legislative updates and Instagram for moments of note, the question of how all of that should be maintained for history is daunting at best.
The task force must forward its recommendations to the Legislature 60 days prior to the opening of the regular session, according to Walsworth’s resolution that lawmakers adopted earlier this year.
Maginnis books optioned
The landmark books written by late author and journalist John Maginnis have been optioned by a Maryland-based media firm that hopes to produce documentaries based on the works.
Strategic Partners & Media also has an office in New Orleans, said Jackie Drinkwater Maginnis, the window of LaPolitics’ founder. The firm has an option of two years on both books, she added.
The Last Hayride chronicles the 1983 campaign of Edwin Edwards and Cross to Bear recounts Edwards’ race against David Duke. Both books were published by Darkhorse Press, originally a sister company to Louisiana Political Review, which publishes LaPolitics.com.
“Reading between the lines, I think they perceived both books as still being relevant today,” Maginnis said of the media firm. “But I sensed a keen interest in Cross To Bear because of the political situation right now.”
Other terms of the deal have not been publicly disclosed.
Political History: The intoxicated Kingfish
The Louisiana Research Collection recently obtained a rare photograph of late Gov. Huey Long, snapped in 1933 at the “Yes, We Have No Cabanas” debutante charity ball, which was an annual event held at the Long Island Bath Club.
The snapshot was provided by author Jack McGuire, who recently penned Win the Race Or Die Trying: Uncle Earl’s Last Hurrah.
In sharing the photo’s backstory with LaRC officials, McGuire said Long reportedly arrived at the club drunk, sat down with strangers, took a plate of food away from someone because “she was too fat,” at one point shooed the bartender away and then started mixing drinks.
The Louisiana’s most famous — and infamous — politician decided to visit the restroom.
“Complaining that the line was too long and the men too slow, Long committed a gross indignity on the trouser leg of the person in front of him, for which he received a black eye and a gash on his forehead,”
McGuire said. “When reporters later asked about his injuries, Long refused to discuss it and would not acknowledge that he had even been in Long Island.”
McGuire also donated to LaRC a medal that Long’s enemies had made that shows a crown-wearing fish being punched. The back of the medal has this message: “By public acclaim for a deed done in private. Sands Point, August 26, 1933.”
They Said It
“We take a real pride in Louisiana of being 49th to Mississippi’s 50th, but we weren’t even beating Mississippi in this category.”
—State Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, on the recent criminal justice reforms
“I would say, ‘Come to Louisiana and run against me.’”
—Louisiana attorney Kyle Duncan, when asked by Kennedy, hypothetically, what he would say to someone who promised to ruin a senator’s career for not supporting a certain judicial nominee