The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives

I get a sick feeling in my stomach even now as I remember how long it took to answer that question. I started by looking through the library’s “Finding Aids,” a version of a catalogue, in black looseleaf notebooks, which listed the titles of the file folders in each box. Just for Johnson’s “House of Representatives Papers,” the general files from his eleven years in that body, the time before he became a senator and then President, there were three hundred and forty-nine boxes. And those weren’t the only boxes that contained letters, memoranda, reports, speech drafts, etc., that dealt with this period. There were, for example, the LBJA files, which included documents that Johnson’s staff had, at various times, shifted from the general “House Papers” and put into other groupings—the library calls them “collections”—such as the “Selected Names” files, which contained correspondence and other material with “close associates.” At least it wouldn’t be me alone turning the pages. Working in the Reading Room with me would be Ina, whose thoroughness and perceptivity in doing research I had learned to trust.

From The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives, by Robert A. Caro | The New Yorker