Code of Ethics

The New School Archives and Special Collections strives to maintain the trust of its donors and users by establishing and acting upon sound ethical judgements that derive guidance from an array of professional organizations for archives, libraries, and museums. In particular, The New School Archives and Special Collections Code of Ethics is guided by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Code of Ethics. This introductory statement from the SAA Code encapsulates our ethical code, which is outlined more specifically below:

Archivists endeavor to ensure that those materials entrusted to their care will be accessible over time as evidence of human activity and social organization. Archivists embrace principles that foster the transparency of their actions and that inspire confidence in the profession.

When complex cases arise for which there is an absence of professional consensus, we seek out exemplary models to guide policy.

Provide Access

  • We recognize that use is the fundamental reason for keeping archives, and as archivists we actively promote broad, open, and equitable access to records in our care. This value guides our desire to minimize restrictions and maximize ease of access.

Collect Intentionally

  • We approach our collecting activities thoughtfully and flexibly, revisiting our policy regularly to identify new areas of focus and to initiate projects that fill in gaps in the available record.

  • We seek to recognize our own biases and blindspots in collecting, and to rectify them through outreach, soliciting input to build collections that reflect the diversity of The New School community.

  • We seek out voices and perspectives of traditionally underrepresented members of the community.

Respect Privacy

  • We recognize that privacy is governed in part by law as well as institutional guidelines1, and establish and uphold procedures and policies that protect the interests of the individuals and organizations whose lives and activities are recorded in our holdings.

  • We actively weigh privacy risks against our commitment to providing access to information.

  • We evaluate whether donated materials raise privacy concerns, considering if the information in records might inadvertently expose donors, contributors, subjects, or their families to legal or other harm.2

  • We ask donors what their specific privacy concerns might be, encouraging them to reflect and to be their own privacy advocates, and to consider their ethical responsibility to other individuals and groups represented in donated materials.

  • Driven by our Code of Ethics, the Archives’ permissions forms may be more explicit about the access and use of donated materials than required by law and New School policies. In certain cases, donors may be able to revoke permission for the Archives to preserve and use their content.

Communicate Intentions and Capabilities

  • We openly communicate the rationale that motivates our collecting decisions, as well as our processing and descriptive practices, committing to transparency about archivists’ interventions and potential biases; and communicate how material may be accessed and under what conditions.

  • We openly communicate that, while we attempt to restrict and protect privacy of donated  materials, the Archives cannot guarantee that materials, even restricted ones, will be legally protected from access by New School General Counsel and/or law enforcement entities, or prone to discovery by others who might use the information in a harmful way.

  • Recognizing that misuse of material is more likely to occur when material becomes detached from its original context, we strive to provide context for materials by establishing provenance, identifying creators, describing contents, adding historical background, and other means, guided by professional archival standards.

  • We respect the autonomy of all donors. We conduct outreach to groups and individuals to involve them in their own archival representation, including inviting their participation in describing original intention and use of donated material.


1 The New School and governmental privacy guidelines include:

2 Records with privacy issues of concern may include information about immigration status; mental health; gender and sexuality-related identification; as well as information that might lead to institutional retaliation against individuals or groups.


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