The following was posted as a comment by a reader. I thought it very worthy of its own blog post.
Kevin Cherry, PhD
Director, Office of Archives and History
NC Department of Cultural Resources….
Dear Dr. Cherry
Sorry, but your explanation does not hold water. No matter what your procedure is, there are people other than yourselves that have interest in these documents. A legitimate group of volunteers were putting for(th) the effort to preserve these documents for posterity and you may have had the legal right to do what you did, but you did not have the moral right.
I am myself involved in a large historical preservation project for preserving the original raw data from NASA’s first mission to map the Moon from orbit during the 1960′s. The original tapes from the three ground stations were preserved in the Federal Records Center at Suitland Maryland for two decades, and then an additional two decades at NASA JPL in California. In 2006 NASA wanted to get rid of the tapes because there was no way to read them anymore.
I found tape drives to read them, and we have raised the money from private sources and from NASA to read, digitize and preserve the data on these tapes. It turns out that this year with the asteroid that exploded over Russia, causing hundreds of injuries and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, that our data will be used to help better quantify the risks to the Earth from these objects by comparing our old data to new data being captured now.
During this process we found out that the original best quality video of the NASA astronauts on the surface of the Moon had been destroyed by NASA. When we finally tracked down the responsible official for this their only excuse was that they were following proper procedure. Think about it for a second, the most important moment in the entire history of mankind, our first step on the surface of another body was lost, because someone followed procedure rather than thinking about the larger societal significance of what they were doing.
I read exactly this same indifference and lack of understanding on your part toward the data that you just destroyed in North Carolina. You have absolutely no idea (nor does anyone else now) what gems were in those documents. How your state’s history could be better understood and possibly injustices righted. Our state of Alabama preserved similar documents and my own family was able to reclaim its rights to land unjustly sold in 1930 where a coal company had extracted millions of tons of coal.
Your actions place a black mark on your profession and on the judgement (or lack thereof) of all involved.
CEO, Skycorp Incorporated