The New Hampshire Historical Society has announced that retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter is donating his personal and professional papers to the society. But don’t book travel to New Hampshire quite yet to take a peek; Souter has placed an extraordinarily long restriction on public access to his papers, barring anyone — researchers, historians, friends, journalists — from viewing the material for 50 years. That’s a lengthier seal than any justice has placed on papers in recent memory.

The unusually severe bar on access is surprising in one sense, but very Souter-esque in another. Souter is an avid historian — in fact joining the board of trustees of the New Hampshire Historical Society as part of the announcement of his decision to donate his papers there. He knows well the “call of history,” the obligation of historical figures and public officials to help flesh out the how and why of important events.