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AAAS Archives Policy

1. Definitions

a. AAAS records: All correspondence and other documentation produced in the course of official business of the AAAS.

b. AAAS archives: Those records selected for continuing preservation, usually after they become inactive. Archives assume many forms, including computer records and audio-visual materials.

c. Professional papers: Personal research notebooks, professional correspondence, and other records of research or other professional activity created by AAAS staff. (See section 3 for distinction between archives and professional papers.

d. Manuscript collections or special collections: Archives and professional papers originating outside the AAAS (example: records of the Geological Society of Washington).

2. Archival Policy

a. Authority and purpose. The Archives of the American Association for the Advancement of Science is hereby established by the Board of Directors of the Association and under the immediate authority of the Executive Officer. The Executive Officer delegates policy and general oversight responsibilities to the Archivist of the Association.

The AAAS shall preserve its archives and the professional papers of its staff for their administrative and research value. The AAAS Archives is the official repository of the AAAS, charged with care of official archives and with soliciting donations of professional papers from staff.

b. Appraisal of records. All records created or received in the course of official business are the property of the AAAS. Regional Division records are considered official records of AAAS. When records become inactive--no longer regularly used by the office or person who created them--they are appraised for continuing administrative and research value. Inactive records are (1) discarded in accordance with the law and AAAS policy; or (2) transferred to the AAAS Archives.

The purpose of records appraisal is to identify records of continuing value for the administration and history of AAAS. Current administration is served by creation of a corporate memory which documents activities, decisions, and programs. History is served by preservation of records documenting AAAS and the wider scientific community.

c. Disposal of records. All AAAS staff should be aware that AAAS policy does not permit unauthorized destruction, donation, or other dispersal of AAAS records. The archivist of the AAAS will ensure that all disposition of records is consistent with AAAS policy, and staff members are urged to work with the archivist in records disposition. The AAAS Archives will always consult appropriate staff when evaluating records for destruction. Once records are received in the Archives, they will be discarded only with concurrence of the office or person that created them.

d. Records management. In the normal course of its work, the AAAS Archives is involved in appraisal and records disposition; assisting AAAS staff in timely disposal of unneeded records is complementary to ensuring preservation of archives.

The Archives also assists AAAS staff with establishment and maintenance of files. General assistance is available to improve filing systems. Specific assistance is given to establish techniques which identify inactive records for appraisal and ultimate disposition.

Staff concern for AAAS archives should include preserving the order and integrity of records while they are current. Since archives are maintained in their original arrangement, staff should maintain current records in order and transfer intact those records selected for archival preservation. The archivist must be consulted before any records are dismantled or dispersed.

e. Cooperation with staff. Selection of records for preservation--and securing donations of personal papers--is a joint effort of staff and archivist. The archivist relies on the staff member for information about the office and its records, and the staff member relies on the archivist for technical assistance and a broad view of what should be preserved.

3. Professional Papers and Non-Archival Materials

a. Official records vs. professional papers. While some materials are clearly official records and, therefore, the property of the AAAS, and others are clearly professional papers, in some cases the distinction is difficult to make. Professional staff members may combine official records and professional papers. Moreover, when records such as research notes pertain to AAAS activities in any way, the unit concerned has an interest in their continued preservation at the AAAS. These are difficult cases which must be resolved individually.

Papers of elected and appointed officers are considered professional papers (example: papers of section officers.)

b. Non-archival materials defined. Several kinds of material are excluded from the definition of archives:

  1. files collected for information only, for example, a file of office equipment advertisements
  2. extra copies of documents preserved only for reference convenience
  3. stocks of publications
  4. stocks of mimeographed documents
  5. files of reprints

Staff should bring these materials to the attention of the Archives staff before discarding or transferring them to the Archives.

4. Special Collections

The AAAS does not collect archives, manuscript collections, or professional papers from scientists or science administrators not associated with AAAS. However, the Association is concerned that the history of American science is well documented. To this end, the AAAS archivist makes continuing efforts to alert other scientific societies to the importance of their own archives and to provide guidance and counsel to those societies where AAAS resources permit.

5. Other Responsibilities of the AAAS Archives

In addition to preservation activities, the AAAS Archives has several responsibilities to AAAS staff and others in the scholarly community.

a. Access to archival holdings. The Archives maintains a degree of control over its holdings which will ensure reasonable reference service to staff and other scholars. The Archives will process selected records in depth according to demand and potential research value. The Archives further informs the scholarly community of the AAAS' archival resources through publication of guides to the archives and communicating with appropriate scholarly journals.

b. Restrictions. By selective impostion of restrictions, the Archives provides archival resources to staff and scholars, while protecting rights of privacy and legitimate proprietary rights. Unless restrictions are imposed by the donor or transferring office, research materials are open to all bona fide researchers.

c. Physical security. The Archives provides physical security for records and personal papers used by researchers in its reading room.

6. Procedures for Securing Archives' Services

a. Requesting disposition of papers. Staff who desire to transfer records or professional papers to the AAAS Archives should make an appointment with the archivist, who will examine the materials in person. Both the Archives and the requesting office will benefit if consultation preceds work on the records. Records must not be sent to the Archives unannounced, because the Archives staff needs to examine records with staff assistance before the transfer is made.

b. Determining disposition of papers. Archives staff and administrators will decide on one of several actions:

  1. Determine that the records are not archival and make legal disposition or transfer to a holding area until legal disposition is possible.
  2. Determine that the records are archival and transfer them to the AAAS Archives.
  3. Determine that the records are active and establish a measure for identifying inactive records.

c. Donating personal papers. The Archives staff is available to assist in making arrangements for donation of personal papers. Although papers usually do not come to the Archives during the donor's active professional life, early arrangements for giving papers to the AAAS at a later date are encouraged.

[Adopted by the AAAS Board of Directors in June 1982. Originally drafted by Richard H. Lytle as part of a project supported by the AAAS and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, NHPRC Grant 81-168.]