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About the Collections

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Policy on Access to the Archives

In accordance with its established policies and procedures, the American Antiquarian Society is committed to making materials in its collections available for research whenever possible. Additionally, the Society subscribes to the standard professional policy on access adopted jointly by the Society of American Archivists and the American Library Association.

The Society recognizes that its own records are of historical significance and whenever possible should be available for research on the same terms as the rest of its collections. Not all of the Society's archives are open for research use, however. It is the Society's responsibility to balance the researcher's need for access with the needs for confidentiality of persons and institutions whose activities are reflected in the material. Additionally, in some cases there may be legal restrictions on access to documents. Consequently, the use of some of the Society's own records, especially those of recent date, is subject to restrictions.

The American Antiquarian Society's records through 1959 are open for research. Restrictions apply to materials generated from 1960 to the present. For use of post-1959 materials, researchers should consult with the curator of manuscripts.

The following is a list of the general restrictions that are applied to the Archives of the American Antiquarian Society.

1. Materials containing information, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy or a libel of a living person.

    a. Definition. Materials containing information about a living person which reveal details of a personal or libelous nature which, if released, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy or a libel. Such information includes but is not limited to details of an individual's research.
    b. Restrictions. Such records may be disclosed only:
      i. to regular employees of the American Antiquarian Society in the performance of normal archival work on such materials, or
      ii. to the named individual or his authorized representative, provided that access will not be granted if the records are restricted pursuant to any other general or specific restrictions, or
      iii. in the case of information regarding an individual's research, if the individual has agreed to its release.
2. Materials containing confidential information about the operation of the Society, including but not limited to financial information.
    a. Definition. Materials which contain financial or other information which was obtained with an expressed or implied understanding of confidentiality.
    b. Restrictions. Such information may be disclosed only:
      i. if the information consists of statistical totals or summaries and does not disclose the source of the information or identify individual parties, or
      ii. if the party with whom the confidential relationship has been established agrees to its release, or
      iii. if, in the judgment of the curator of manuscripts, the passage of time is such that release of the information would not result in a substantial breach of confidence of the parties identified in the materials.
3. Materials containing confidential employment or personnel information.
    a. Definition. Materials containing information on appointment, employment, performance evaluation, disciplinary action, and similar personnel matters. Decisions regarding the disclosure of such information will be made by the Society's president.
    b. Restrictions. Such information may be disclosed only:
      i. if the information is a summary statement of service, or
      ii. if the information does not identify particular individuals, or
      iii. if the individual or his legal representative agrees to its release, or
      iv. if the individual is deceased or the passage of time is such that the individual may be presumed to be deceased.
4. Materials containing information regarding confidential decision-making or pending litigation.
    a. Definition. Materials which contain information which was given in confidence in the period before a determination was made, including but not limited to advice given by attorneys, public accountants, and staff advisors, or deliberations of fellowship committees.
    b. Restrictions. Such information may be disclosed only:
      i. if the decision has been made public and the nature of the determinations leading to the final decision is known, or
      ii. if, in the judgment of the president of the Society, the public interest in disclosure outweighs the continued need for confidentiality.

August, 2000

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