Remarks of Roberta Shaffer

Transfer Ceremony and Lecture

Clay T. Whitehead Papers

Talking Points – Roberta I. Shaffer,

Associate Librarian for Library Service, Library of Congress

January 11, 2013


Mrs. Whitehead, members and friends the Whitehead family, honored guests,

I am Roberta Shaffer, and I have the pleasure of serving this institution as the Associate Librarian of Congress for Library Services.

We are here this evening to celebrate the official accessioning of the Clay T. Whitehead papers by the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.

This event marks a beginning on many levels.  From this point forward, the Library of Congress has pledged to provide access to the story, the personal history of Tom Whitehead’s participation in critical events of the 20th century.  In addition to access, we also have pledged the necessary corollary to protect and preserve these materials in perpetuity.

Tom hailed from Kansas where as a young boy his interests in ham radio, rocketry and the like foretold his life’s work.

Undergraduate and graduate studies at MIT in electrical engineering.

And ultimately the “engine” if not the policy engineer who designed the domestic satellite policy that opened the skies” to cable television.

And leading to sweeping and lasting changes in the entire telecommunications landscape in the United States and quite frankly the world.

While Tom Whitehead, in great part, made his reputation on this and his participation in assuring a smooth transition for President Ford’s move to the White House, we know from our experience that researchers, scholars, civil servants, and curious citizens will find ways to learn from this collection that we cannot really imagine today.  The continuing interest in technology and its free flow across borders was the subject of the book reviewed just today in the Wall Street Journal.

This particular collection gives us all gathered here today much pride.  Under the leadership of Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington and with great assistance from the Chief of the manuscript division, James Hutson and his extraordinary staff—Allan Teichroew, Tim Stutz and Janice Ruth—have and continue to process this treasure trove of information.

Dr. Margaret Mahon Whitehead, Tom’s widow, has developed a website containing digitized copies of much of the collection.  Knowing that there are gems here to be discovered by future generations, she has explored the best and most effective ways to organize the materials and uses semantic descriptions of specific items to assist those who will mine these riches.

The website also provides links to other collections containing relevant materials produced by others or Tom Whitehead’s own letters and memos given to them in the course of communication, and thus becoming part of their histories; now available in libraries and research centers across the globe.

This evening, we are celebrating collaborations of all kinds that can only benefit the quest for knowledge.

The Library of Congress is all about this quest.  Manuscripts, musical scores, movies, maps, and frankly any medium from the past or present that contains knowledge finds a safe and welcoming home here.  These seemingly diverse “things” are connected by the thousands of people who come through our doors—literally or virtually—every day.

And these collections form the foundation of the Library of Congress as a library, but also its role as classroom, lecture hall, performance space, and venue for enlightenment and discovery of new things.  It is with this in mind, that is my pleasure to turn the podium over to Dr. Margaret Whitehead who will say a few remarks and then introduce the terrific program for this evening.

Thank you…Dr. Whitehead…