Wellesley College Archives Access Policy
The Archives is open to all researchers, including those from outside Wellesley. We are committed to providing open access to our collections as far as possible within the limits of privacy, confidentiality, and preservation. Although many records and manuscript collections are open for use, there are materials held by the Archives that are subject to access restrictions. For institutional data, some restrictions are mandated by laws such as FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), while others are determined by the Archives in conjunction with the records-creating department or office. Wellesley College adheres to the Guidelines for Access to Original Research Materials, a joint statement of the American Library Association and the Society of American Archivists.
Restrictions on access to manuscript collections are informed by the need to balance access and confidentiality in records. Often this is stipulated in the terms of the gift agreement governing the donation of the material. In negotiating these agreements, the Archives seeks to secure the greatest access possible, and will stipulate a set period for any restrictions to expire so that materials may be available for use. For older collections, access is determined by the College Archivist.
Collections that are open to researchers may have restrictions on use due to condition and format and are subject to copyright law. Since collections are processed at an aggregate level, individual items within collections may be too fragile to safely handle or may contain confidential information. The Archives expects researchers to follow all relevant laws and Wellesley College policies.
Please direct any questions about this policy to the College Archivist.
The workflow of documenting the physical or digital transfer of materials to an archives. Archives staff record where the materials came from and when they came to the archives, and provide a brief description of their contents. Materials are accessioned as soon as possible after they arrive at the Archives.
The arrangement, description, and housing of archival materials for storage and use by researchers. Archives process collections to support physical preservation of their contents, to facilitate researcher use, and to protect the privacy of the people whose lives are documented in their collections. Because collections vary in size, content, and format, archivists use professional judgement to determine what processing work, if any, is needed before a collection can be made available to researchers.
Open for research
A collection or portion of a collection that is open for research may be accessed by all researchers, including those from outside the Wellesley community.
Closed for research
A collection or portion of a collection that is closed for research may be accessed only by designated people (see Section 3, Access to collections in the Archives). All or part of a collection may be closed because:
- it is unprocessed
- it contains materials in a restricted access category (see Section 4, Categories of access to College records)
- it has been reviewed by Archives staff or by the originating department and determined to contain confidential information
- in the case of a manuscript collection, the donor and the College Archivist have agreed to close all or part of a collection
Records produced by Wellesley’s academic and administrative departments in the course of everyday work. College records with historical value are evaluated by the College Archivist for acquisition by the Archives. For the purposes of this document, records of the Wellesley College Alumnae Association and student organizations are considered college records.
A collection of personal or family papers, as opposed to the institutional records created by an organization.. Although manuscript literally means handwritten, a manuscript collection can include a multitude of formats, such as photographs, scrapbooks, printed works, and audiovisual materials.
3. Access to collections in the Archives
All researchers will be granted access to all open collections, and to open portions of partially restricted collections, in accordance with the rules of the College Archives. Open collections are listed on the Archives website.
Donors of manuscript collections shall have access to their own collections.
All college records, even those designated as closed for research, shall be open to the College President and members of the Board of Trustees.
All records of an academic or administrative department, even those designated as closed for research, shall be open to the ranking officer of that department or division, as well as any other college employees as deemed appropriate by that ranking officer.
All records of a student organization shall be open to the ranking officer of that organization, as well as any college employees or other students, as deemed appropriate by that ranking officer.
Current and former students seeking access to their own records in the Archives, such as a transcript or Dean’s file, should contact the originating department.
For access to an unprocessed collection, researchers must contact the College Archivist, who will review the request and the records. If the archivist determines that the collection can be opened without any additional processing work, the collection will be made immediately available to the requesting researcher and to all subsequent researchers, and will be listed as an open collection on the Archives website. Otherwise, the collection will remain closed until it can be processed by Archives staff. If the collection is not yet accessioned, it will be accessioned before researchers are granted access.
For access to college records in a restricted access category, researchers must contact the College Archivist, stating the reason for access and designating the portion of the collection for which access is requested. The Archivist will transmit the request to the Office of the President, along with information on the content of the requested material. Access for research or administrative use will be provided only upon written authorization from the Office of the President.
4. Categories of access to College records
College records fall into one of four access categories:
Category 1: Universal Distribution
Open without restriction
Typically, these records include announcements, publications, calendars, brochures, and widely distributed reports.
Category 2: General College Records
Closed 20 years from records’ creation
Then, subject to review by the Wellesley College Archives and the records-creating department or office, the records are open without restriction. Typically, most college records supporting administrative and business activities, and most student organization records, fall under this category.
Category 3: Personal Information
Closed 75 years from records’ creation
Then, subject to review by the Wellesley College Archives, and the records-creating department or office, the records are open without restriction. Typically, records containing personal information about an individual or individuals, such as student academic records, employment records, and files on individual donors, fall under this category.
Category 4: Restricted College Records (closed for more than 20 years)
The following types of records have the following restriction periods:
Board of Trustees records are restricted for 50 years after creation.
Office of the President records are restricted for 20 years after a president’s administration ends.
Faculty and staff biographical files are restricted for 5 years after the person’s death.
Alumnae biographical files are restricted for 5 years after the person’s death.
Class record books are restricted for 90 years after the class graduates, except to alumnae from that class.
Except for materials intended for universal distribution, which are in Category 1, collections of materials from individual classes are restricted for 50 years after the class graduates. Members of the class still have access to these materials.
The Archives and the records-creating department, office, or organization may decide to extend the access restrictions or impose restrictions that differ from the standard access categories.
5. Related documents