State gets federal grant to archive oil spill litigation documents

Millions of pages of Exxon Valdez oil spill litigation will be organized and permanently archived in the capital city.

The state archives office has received a federal grant to make the documents accessible to the public.

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission, commonly called the National Archives, has given Alaska $109,000 to catalog the material from the case, which took five years to litigate.

Project director Larry Hibpshman says two full-time archivists will evaluate and appraise the records, dispose of extraneous material, then organize and put it into the state archives electronic catalog. The catalog will be uploaded to a national bibliographic utility so the material is available wherever anyone needs to use it.

Hibpshman says the project will take about two years to complete. He expects the work to be done by September 2013. He’s already begun the evaluation.

“There are lots and lots of witness interviews, some of which are probably depositions. There are exhibits, particularly the ones that support the interviews. There are the daily documents the lawyers filed as they went through to keep track. There’s a great deal of discovery material both from the plaintiffs to the defendant and from the defendant to the plaintiffs,” Hibpshman says.

While most of the material is paper, there are also recordings and some microfilm.

Hibpshman has assembled a seven-member Oversight Task Force to review project activities and advise the archvists on matters he says historians usually don’t deal with, including legal issues, the science and technology of the spill and cleanup, regional concerns, and public information.

The state’s lead oil spill litigation attorney, Craig Tillery, is on the task force as well as Barbara Hendrickson, the state’s lead case paralegal; Jennifer Schorr, Department of Law Environmental Section Assistant Attorney General; and former Environmental Conservation Commissioner Kurt Fredriksson. Other members are Andrew Goldstein, Valdez Museum and Historical Archives; Patience Andersen Faulkner, Eyak Tribal Council; and Carrie Holba, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustees Council Librarian.

Hibpshman says others closely associated with the spill and litigation will provide advice and information.

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