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.
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.
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.
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.
American Library Association. “Professional Ethics.” Accessed July 7, 2020 from http://www.ala.org/tools/ethics.
Antoinette E. Baker, “Ethical Considerations in Web 2.0 Archives,” SLIS Student Research Journal 1, no. 1, (2011). Accessed July 7, 2020 from http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/slissrj/vol1/iss1/4
Michelle Caswell and Marika Cifor, “From Human Rights to Feminist Ethics: Radical Empathy in Archives,” Archivaria 81 (Spring 2016): 23-42. Accessed from https://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/13557
Bergis Jules, Ed Summers, and Dr. Vernon Mitchell, Jr. “Ethical Considerations for Archiving Social Media Content Generated by Contemporary Social Movements: Challenges, Opportunities, and Recommendations.” Documenting The Now. April 2018. Accessed July 7, 2020 from https://www.docnow.io/docs/docnow-whitepaper-2018.pdf.
Harvard Library. “Ethics.” #MeToo Project Schlesinger Library. 2018. Accessed July 7, 2020 from https://www.schlesinger-metooproject-radcliffe.org/ethics-statement
Peter Lor and Johannes J. Britz, “A Moral Perspective on South–North Web Archiving,” Journal of Information Science 30, no. 6, (2004): 540-549. Accessed from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0165551504047925
Jasmine E. McNealy, “The Privacy Implications of Digital Preservation: Social Media Archives and the Social Networks Theory of Privacy,” Elon University Law Review 3, no. 2 (2012): 133-160. Accessed from https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2027036
Helen Nissenbaum, “Privacy as Contextual Integrity,” Washington Law Review 79, no. 1 (2004): 119-157. Accessed from https://crypto.stanford.edu/portia/papers/RevnissenbaumDTP31.pdf
Helen Nissenbaum, “A Contextual Approach to Privacy Online,” Deadalus 140, no. 4, (2011):. 32-48. Accessed from https://www.jstor.org/stable/23046912?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
Project Stand: Student Activism Now Documented. “S.A.V.E Methodology.” 2018. Accessed July 7, 2020 from https://standarchives.com/s-a-v-e-methodology/
Lior Strahilevitz, “A Social Networks Theory of Privacy,” University of Chicago Law Review 72, no. 2 (2005): 919-988. Accessed from https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1024&context=journal_articles