When "open access" means "beware of the leopard"

This week, media outlets around the world have been trumpeting the French government's decision to make the records of the Vichy regime "open access" and available to researchers.

Open access in the 21st century has a well-understood meaning: online, for free. But that's not what the French government means by "open access" — they mean, "Anyone who wants to can make an appointment, travel to Paris, and visit the Police Museum in Paris, and then follow the rules set out in "Order No. 2015-01027 concerning the applicable regulations in consultation room of police headquarters archives." There are no indexes, no search facility — just a pile o' files.

Letting a small number of physically co-located researchers browse a formerly locked-away archive is more open than not letting them do so, but it falls well short of what "open access" means in this century. It's more akin to the notorious town council records department in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: down an unlit stairwell into a cellar, "at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying beware of the leopard."

Unfortunately, none of the press accounts of the Vichy records have mentioned this.

Not one of the fifteen media sources I checked, even mentions the lack of meaningful "public access" to the Vichy records.

Clearly "public access" means something different to these fifteen news organizations than it does to the average Net citizen.

Mocking "public access" – Media Silence – Vichy Records
[Patrick Durusau]