Electronic Researcher, George Mason University

access

Before deciding to visit an archives center or library with your digitizing kit on shoulder, call to double check the site's rules. After studying a small sampling of twenty archives and libraries across the country we found that regulations vary greatly, but for digital researchers the outlook is promising. Your social skills may also be necessary to establish a good relationship with an archivist or research librarian, because most institutions make decisions on whether to allow digitizing on a case-by-case basis. The summary of our findings are as follows:

Two large, national collections of records use their web sites to warn researchers of the rules of digitizing and handling, while many state historical archives do not. For instance, the National Archives and Records Administration's College Park and Downtown DC facilities take three pages to detail their rules. They even tell researchers that the Hewlett-Packard CapShare 920 is the only hand-held scanner allowed in the Archives. Library of Congress also provides specific information for researchers on its web site, but advises individuals to check with the reading room they plan to work in since each has its own rules. The Prints and Photographs reading room allows digital photography (without flash or external light) with a signed contract, but does not allow scanners.

With the introduction of affordable, digital document reproduction equipment, some libraries and archives are resisting. The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois does not allow digital photography or scanning because they want you to use their copying service. California Historical Society allows digital photography, but charges researches $1 per photo taken. And neither the American Antiquarian Society nor the Minnesota Historical Society permits photography or scanning in their archives.

As digital technology changes rapidly, so might archival research policies. Check with an institution before a visit, because most archivists and librarians want to approve your equipment before you enter their facilities or ask you to complete a form. And, if a site does not allow scanning or digital photography this month they may in the future.

archives

 

Institution

Laptops

Photo

Scanners

1

NARA

Yes

Yes

Yes

2

Library of Congress

Yes

Yes

Yes

3

LOC's Prints and Photographs

Yes

Yes

No

4

California Historical Society

Yes

Yes

No

5

Minnesota Historical Society

Yes

No

No

6

Atlanta History Center

Yes

Yes

Yes

7

Hagley Museum and Library

Yes

Yes

Yes

8

Naval Historical Center

Yes

Yes

Yes

9

Newberry Library

Yes

No

No

10

University of Notre Dame Archives

Yes

Yes
3D artifacts only

No

11

Montanta Historical Society

Yes

Yes
(flash allowed)

No

12

American Antiquarian Society

Yes

No

No

13

New York Public Library

Yes

Yes

Yes

14

Getty Research Library Special Collections

Yes

No

No

15

Oriental Institute Library Research Archives

Yes

Yes

Yes

16

University of Virginia

Yes

Yes

Yes
hand-held only

17

Denver Public Library Special Collections, Western History

Yes

No

No

18

Truman Presidential Library

Yes

Yes

Yes
flatbeds only

19

Tulane University Special Collections

Yes

Yes

No

20

Smithsonian Institution Libraries Special Collections

Yes

Yes
(flash allowed)

No

 

Affirmative Totals

20

15

9

Note: Data collected by phone and Internet during February, 2004. The National Archives and Records Administration website begins with information for researchers with a linked page on scanning. To visit specific NARA sites, such as the downtown DC repository, other regulations apply. Library of Congress website also cites information for researchers and for the Main Reading Room. Specific information on researching in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room are also available. The agreement for use of digital photography in the Prints and Photographs reading room is dowloadable so that a researcher may arrive with this in hand upon beginning their day. The Newberry Library does not provide this information on their website , but library personnel will answer questions over the phone. The California Historical Society's rules for doing research are available on their website. And the American Antiquarian Society provides most of this information on their site in its “Using the Library” section. For current information at Minnesota Historical Society, call 651-296-6126.

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