About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "The Leopold and Loeb Files: An Intimate Look at One of America's Most Infamous Crimes"

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
October 10, 2019

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us for this afternoon’s program, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through Facebook or YouTube.

Before we hear from Nina Barrett about her new book, The Leopold and Loeb Files, I’d like to let you know about two other programs coming up soon here in the McGowan Theater.

On Tuesday, October 15, at noon, bestselling author Harlow Giles Unger will tell us about his new biography, Thomas Paine and the Clarion Call for American Independence. 

And on Thursday, October 17, at 7 p.m., we will host a panel discussion connected to our special exhibit, Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote. The program is called “Women’s Suffrage and the Men Who Supported Them: The Suffragents and Their Role in the Struggle for the Vote.”

To keep informed about events throughout the year, check our website, Archives.gov, or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Check out their website—archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about them and join online.

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Archivists occasionally find unexpected things in their collections. Sometimes, these discoveries are mere curiosities; sometimes they are significant additions to the documentary record. When an archivist at Northwestern University in 1988 pulled out a sheet of paper from a bag he’d found in the basement of the law school, he uncovered a trove of documents from the Leopold and Loeb trial.

Nina Barrett used these documents and more in an exhibit in 2009 and then as the basis of her book. Her retelling of an already well-told tale shows the rewards of going back to the sources.

And as an old reference librarian who still dabbles in connecting researchers with the information they need to do their work, I was thrilled to be able to connect Nina with National Archives records from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and a patent application for a unique eye glass frame.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, book reviewer Rick Kogan noted the many books, plays, and films inspired by the crime. “And yet,” he declared, “even if you have seen or read all of these works you have not experienced this case with anything approaching the astonishing and compelling detail that you will in The Leopold and Loeb Files.”

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Nina Barrett is a graduate of Yale University and Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. In 2009 she curated an exhibit at Northwestern University called “The Murder That Wouldn’t Die,” which inspired her book, The Leopold and Loeb Files: An Intimate Look at One of America’s Most Infamous Crimes. Her articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The Nation, the Chicago Tribune, and many other publications. She also trained as a professional chef, and her food reporting for Chicago’s NPR station WBEZ earned her the James Beard Award for Best Radio Show two years running, 2012 and 2013. She has twice served as a judge for the James Beard Cookbook Awards. In 2014, she founded Bookends & Beginnings, an independent bookstore in Evanston, Illinois.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Nina Barrett.