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ARCHIVES Home

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ARCHIVES  March 2006, Week 4

ARCHIVES March 2006, Week 4

Subject:

Honoring restrictions

From:

Bob Shuster <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Bob Shuster <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 22 Mar 2006 07:59:16 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (76 lines)

Dear Listserverites:

Some time ago, I got a message from another archivist that asked, in
part, 

"how we can ensure that when a restriction of a number of years is
placed on an item that this promise would be honored even when we are
gone and someone else takes over our job?"

My reply is below.  Does anyone else out there have additional comments
or different comments on the subject?

Bob Shuster
BGC Archives


"There is no way to guarantee it, I suppose.  Ultimately it will depend
1) on the integrity of the archivist who succeeds you and of the
administration of the library and the institution and 2) your successors
knowing what the restrictions are.

If the restriction is relatively simple, such as this material may not
be used for thirty years, you could put cord or some other wrapping
around the folder or the box and then seal the wrapper with tape or wax
or something similar and write on the seal so that if the seal is
broken, it will be obvious.  But this will not prevent the seal from
being physically broken of your successors decide to break the bonds of
honor.  You should include in your training and in your written manuals
and policy statements for the archives the imperative necessity of
observing all restrictions agreed to with donors.  I think it is
important too that you talk with your superior in the organization about
the importance of observing restrictions and make sure you are both of
the same mind

It would be a good idea to keep a register of restricted material, with
a summary of the restrictions and the date they expire.  This would be
something your successors could consult as needed to ensure that they
know what the restrictions are.  Here at the BGC Archives we also label
each folder that is restricted and put a red line on the top of it so
that it is instantly recognizable. The folder also has a label
describing the restriction or, if it would be too long, referring the
staff person to the certificate of gift containing the restriction.  We
also put a special sticker on the box containing it, so that any staff
person pulling the box knows there is restricted material inside.

I would add that if you discovered that restrictions had been
unintentionally violated, you should inform the archives staff and the
donor in order to take steps to see that it does not happen again.  If
they were intentionally violated, you should inform the donor.

On a related issue, it is important for restrictions to be clear,
mutually understood and in writing.  They should be included in the
certificate of gift the donor signs, so that the archives ownership of
the material is based in part on observing the restrictions.  Having in
writing also helps to ensure that both the repository and the donor have
the same understanding if what the restriction means.  For example, does
"closed for ten years" mean that the staff or the donor's family can see
the materials, or does it only refer to researchers?   You could write
the restriction either way, but all should have the same understanding
of what it means."


 

A posting from the Archives & Archivists LISTSERV List sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, www.archivists.org.
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