Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis meticulously curated the memory of her husband after he was assassinated, reimagining President John F. Kennedy as a fallen King Arthur in a modern-day Camelot.
Now some historians wonder if Laurene Powell Jobs is also trying to frame the legacy of her late husband, Steve Jobs, a complicated and transformational figure who was shadowed by his flaws as a father and belligerence as a boss.
Last month, Ms. Powell Jobs introduced the Steve Jobs Archive. It aspires to reinvent the personal archive much as Mr. Jobs, in his years running Apple, remade music with the iPod and communication with the iPhone.
Rather than offering up a repository of personal correspondence, notes and items for public research and inquiry, as other influential figures have done, Ms. Powell Jobs, who did not respond to requests for comments, said at a conference last month that the Steve Jobs Archive would be devoted to “ideas.” Those ideas are primarily Mr. Jobs’s philosophies about life and work.
Harvard Business School’s 25 greatest business leaders of the 20th century left behind personal archives that are open to the public in libraries or museums, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Asa Candler, who built Coca-Cola.
Other iconic business founders such as Walt Disney, Sam Walton and Ray Kroc entrusted their papers to the companies they built, allowing those collections to become the cornerstone of corporate archives.
Walt Disney Company, make personal correspondence, notes, speeches and other items available to authors for research.
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“We don’t censor,” said Becky Cline, director of the Walt Disney archives. “We just vet.”
The new Jobs archive debuted with a minimalist website containing eight pieces of video, audio and writing that express what the archive calls Mr. Jobs’s “driving motivations in his own words.” The items, three-quarters of which were already public, can be accessed by clicking through maxims made famous by Mr. Jobs, including “make something wonderful and put it out there” and “pursue different paths.”
The next steps for the archive are shrouded in the kind of mystery associated with the way Mr. Jobs ran Apple. About all that’s been publicly disclosed is that Ms. Powell Jobs hired a documentary filmmaker to gather hundreds of oral histories about Mr. Jobs from former colleagues. Where that material will be stored and who will have access to it has not been revealed.