Over the past few years I have gone through a few large Mormon history research collections, including the Kenney Collection at BYU, the Stanley Ivins Collection at the Utah State Historical Society, and the D. Michael Quinn Collection at Yale. All of these collections have yielded immense amounts of information that I probably would not have come across elsewhere. The Kenney Collection contains boxes of notes from the First Presidency Papers, General Auxiliary Organization Board Minutes, and other materials that are restricted at the Church Archives. While the Ivins Collection does not contain as much information from restricted collections at the Church Archives, it is an important collection of notes from diaries and books written by people who visited Utah during the nineteenth century, many of which are obscure. And the Quinn Papers contain what is perhaps the gold mine of information from restricted Mormon archival materials, with notes from General Authority diaries, Quorum of the Twelve and Seventies Minutes, and notes from a vast number of other important Mormon sources.
Each of these collections has yielded valuable material that I would likely have never seen; however, these collections also pose an important question for Mormon historians who access their information, namely, “To what degree can we rely upon the research notes of other historians, particularly when the sources are unavailable to us, in our historical research and writing?” It seems to me that collections like these put Mormon historians in a difficult possition. Often they contain information that greatly augments our arguments and that helps to prove our points. At the same time they contain within them a built in counterargument, that they were manufactured by the historian who composed the notes. Ideally access to at least some of these collections would be granted, thus lessening the need to rely upon others’ notes, but in the meantime Mormon historians must grapple with the question of to what extent they can and will use such notes.