Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Jessica Branco Colati

Second Advisor

Timothy Hacsi

Third Advisor

Nicholas Juravich


Margaret Cross Norton became the inaugural archivist for the State of Illinois in 1922 and served in that role for thirty-five years. As such, she founded one of the first American state archives established in the early twentieth century to remedy the neglect of government documents that had prevailed since our nation’s founding. Norton became a leading national figure in this effort to protect public records as a result of her prolific writing and wide-ranging work to develop the public archives profession in the United States.

More recently, Norton has been characterized in the archival literature as the leader of a movement among American public archivists to break away from their private sector counterparts and reject historical scholarship as an appropriate professional focus. This thesis re-examines that portrayal of Norton, considering the import of her writing and professional activities in two distinct contexts: the social conditions of her day and contemporary developments in the curation of presidential records. Thus contextualized, Norton appears not as an adversary of historical scholarship but rather as a prescient and effective advocate for protecting American public records.


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