Standards for Access of Research Materials in Archival and Manuscript Repositories (1973)


Society of American Archivists


CSEP Library

Date Approved: 

December 29, 1973

Other Versions: 

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In April 1972 the Committee on Reference, Access, and Photoduplication Policies and the Committee on Collecting Personal Papers and Manuscripts submitted drafts of two statements of standards to the Council. One set of proposed standards concerned access to research materials in archival and manuscript repositories, while the other dealt with the appraisal of gifts. Before taking action on the draft statements, the Council had them published in the American Archivist and asked for critical comments from the membership. [See vol. 35, nos. 3 & 4 (July/October-1972), 454-56.-Ed.] The draft statements then went to the Committee on Professional Standards, which suggested a number of textual changes. The two comrnittees which had drawn up the statements rewrote them to incorporate most of the recommendations of the Committee on Professional Standards and sent the revised texts to the Executive Committee. Following the advice of the Executive Committee, the Council endorsed the statements on December 29, 1973. They are as follows:


1. It is the responsibility of an archival and manuscript repository to make available research materials in its possession to researchers on equal terms of access. Since the accessibility of material depends on knowing of its existence, it is the responsibility of a repository to inform researchers of the collection$ and archival groups in its custody. This may be accomplished through a card catalog, inventories, and other internal finding aids, a published guide and reports to NUCMC where appropriate, and the freely offered assistance of staff members

2. To protect and insure the continued availability of the material in his custody, the archivist may impose several conditions.

(a) The archivist may limit the use of fragile or unusually valuable materials so long as suitable reproductions are made available for the use of all researchers.

(b) All materials must be used in accordance with the rules of and under the supervision of the repository. Each repository should publish and furnish to potential researchers its rules governing access and use. Such rules must be equally applied and enforced.

(c) The archivist may refuse access to unprocessed materials, so long as such refusal is applied to all researchers.

(d) Normally, a repository will not send research materials for use outside its building or jurisdiction. Under special circumstances a collection or a portion of it may be loaned or placed on deposit with another institution.

(e) The archivist may refuse access to an individual researcher who has demonstrated such carelessness or deliberate destructiveness as to endanger the safety of the material.

3. Each repository should publish a suggested form of citation crediting the repository and identifying items within the collection for later reference. Citations to copies of which the originals are in other repositories should include the location of the originals.

4. A repository should advise the researcher that he and his publisher have the sole responsibility for securing permission to publish beyond fair use from unpublished manuscripts in which literary property rights are retained or from materials protected by statutory copyrights, or to publish extensive quotation (beyond fair use) from copyrighted works. A repository should, to the best of its ability, inform the researcher about known retention of literary rights.

5. A repository should not grant privileged or exclusive use of materials to any person or persons, or conceal the existence of any body of material from any researcher unless required to do so by law, donor, or purchase stipulations.

6. A repository should, whenever possible, inform a researcher of parallel research by other individuals using the same papers. It may supply names upon request.

7. Repositories are committed to preserving manuscript and archival mate. rials and to making them available for research as soon as possible. At the same time, it is recognized that every public agency has certain obligations to guard against invasion of privacy and to protect confidentiality in its records in accordance with law and that every private donor has the right to impose reasonable restrictions upon his papers to protect confidentiality for a reasonable period of time.

(a) It is the responsibility of the archivist to inform researchers of the restrictions which apply to individual collections or record groups.

(b) The archivist should discourage donors from imposing unreasonable restrictions.

(c) The archivist should. whenever possible, require a specific time Emit on all restrictions.

(d) The repository should periodically reevaluate restricted records and work toward providing access to material no longer harmful to individuals or to national interest.