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Grisinger Reviews Works on Vertical Files and Paper Shredders

You have to be a certain kind of legal historian to have your imagination fired by tabbed file folders, but, hell, I’m one too.  Over at Jotwell, Joanna Grisinger, Northwestern University, writes on two articles, Craig Robertson, Granular Certainty, The Vertical Filing Cabinet, and the Transformation of Files, 4 Administory 76 (2019); and Marianne Constable, The Paper Shredder: Trails of Law, 23 Law Text Culture 276 (2019).  Professor Grisinger writes:

"The Last of the NRA" (1938)(LC)
Anyone who has done archival research has grappled with someone else’s file organization—are the papers you seek filed chronologically? By correspondent? By topic? By some other method inscrutable to the outsider? Does the filing system reflect the thinking of your research subject, of a secretary or clerk, or of a later archivist seeking to impose order on chaos? Finally, will the files actually contain the documents you’re hoping to find? Two recent articles take seriously the prosaic technologies of file storage, on the one hand, and file destruction, on the other, explicating the history of the tabbed file folder, the filing cabinet, and the paper shredder. These technologies are crucial to the contemporaneous operation of the bureaucratic process, and, of course, silently shape how we write history from those files. [More. ]
–Dan Ernst

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