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The Freud Archives

In response to:

The Freud Archives from the July 17, 1986 issue

To the Editors:

Dr. Harold P. Blum’s letter [NYR, July 17], which heralds a “new current policy of The Sigmund Freud Archives,” is likely to mislead the unwary.

We are told that everything under the control of the Archives which is being published, or has already appeared in print, will be “open to all scholars on the basis of equal access.” It is hard to believe that researchers need much help of the Archives, even on the exalted basis of equal access, for material which is soon to be old hat.

According to a letter to me from the Chief of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, this supposed new policy has solely amounted to Dr. Blum’s making unrestricted Freud’s adolescent letters to Eduard Silberstein. These letters formed the basis for a 1971 article, and have also been extensively perused by at least one historian who has discussed them at length in print.

If anyone takes up Dr. Blum’s suggestion and writes now to The Library of Congress, they will find that access to The Sigmund Freud Collection remains, with the exception of the Silberstein letters, unchanged. The Library of Congress is still subject to the whims of its principal donor, The Sigmund Freud Archives.

Whatever the wishes of those who gave or sold material to the Archives, the Archives’ own policy has been that the bulk of the material will only start to be available after the year 2000. It is therefore sophistry for Dr. Blum, now Executive Director of the Archives, to tell “interested persons” to apply to The Library of Congress “for permission to view the material in The Sigmund Freud Collection, subject to the usual rules and regulations of The Library of Congress governing such scholarly use,” when in fact The Library of Congress seems helpless in the face of arbitrary actions of the Archives.

A laughable system of classification, imposed by the Archives, means that one of Freud’s letters to his deceased eldest son is restricted until 2013, and another until 2032, while a letter of Josef Breuer’s is sealed until 2102.

Dr. Blum’s announcement contains one sentence which invites conjecture from Kremlinologists: “It is the intention of The Archives to release all letters and documents from restriction, as soon as possible, consistent with legal and ethical standards and obligations.” Since it will be Dr. Blum and his Archives which will be implementing this intention, and constructing its own rules, it does not sound to me that this supposed “new current policy” amounts to a hill of beans. We have no way of knowing, for example, whether there will ever be any change in the long-standing policy of the Archives in allowing certain ideologically acceptable individuals to use documentation which is in the meantime barred to scholars at large.

Readers may be interested in knowing that Dr. K.R. Eissler remains, according to The Library of Congress, in charge “as Anna Freud representative” of allowing researchers to inspect the restricted Series A of the Sigmund Freud Collection.

Paul Roazen

York University

Ontario, Canada

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