SAA Public Policy Agenda

Archival sources protect the rights of individuals and organizations, ensure the accountability of governments and institutions, and provide access to historical information and cultural heritage. The Society of American Archivists (SAA) will work with the archives profession to advocate for public policies and resources that ensure that such records are identified, preserved, and made accessible. SAA defines public policy as any government policy—federal , state, or local –that directly affects archivists or the archival record, including legislation, executive orders, judicial decisions, funding priorities, and other regulatory measures. 

In alignment with our Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics, SAA is committed to supporting policies that will ensure the protection of privacy and individual rights; ensure the transparency and accountability of government at all levels; guarantee the administrative continuity necessary for good governance; make accessible evidence of the diverse and complex elements of the human experience; and preserve historical documentation for future generations.

SAA firmly believes that the critical nature of information in a democracy places the burden to prove the need for confidentiality, or the legitimacy of excluding information from the public domain, on those asserting such claims. Unless there are legal or other compelling reasons to the contrary, SAA will consistently value the general good obtained through open access to information over the limited good achieved by information closure or proprietary use. SAA also is committed to actively resisting policies that undermine existing records authority and privacy laws or that endanger the integrity of the historical record held in both public and private institutions.

SAA recognizes that social issues and archival concerns may overlap (e.g., in matters of personal privacy, access to public information, or misuse of records for political purposes). Therefore, SAA reserves the right to speak out on human rights or social justice issues that affect archivists or researchers.

SAA will prioritize the following policy areas:

  • Public policy issues that affect archivists and their ability to do their work;
  • Advancing the diversity of the archival record;
  • Protecting privacy and individual rights of archival subjects and users; 
  • Promoting the public’s right to access information held or created by public and publicly funded bodies;
  • Strengthening of federal, state, and local records authority over information created by public and publicly funded bodies;
  • Supporting impartial and non-partisan federal, state, and municipal records authorities;
  • Ensuring adequate funding for government archives at the federal, state, and municipal level;
  • Ensuring adequate funding for federal and state programs that support archives and archival projects, including, but not limited to, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS);
  • Supporting a robust public domain, which forms the backbone of creative and research activities by ensuring access to unambiguously free cultural content; and
  • Advocating for copyright rules that preserve the incentives for creators to make and publish new works without unduly constraining the work archivists do in pursuit of our mission.

Requests for SAA’s commitment to a specific policy issue will be more vigorously pursued if that issue fits within these priorities. However, many worthy advocacy issues lie outside the scope of this policy agenda. Individual members or groups may request that SAA address these issues using the same procedures as for public policy issues; SAA will consider them on a case-by-case basis.

View SAA's 2018 Legislative Agenda and Action Plan


How to Suggest SAA Take Action on an Issue

SAA's Criteria for Advocacy Statements

For more information and perspectives, see the Committee on Public Policy’s microsite.

Several other SAA groups track issues of importance to archivists and the archival community. See, for example, the microsites of SAA’s Committee on Ethics and Professional Conduct, Intellectual Property Working Group, and Issues and Advocacy Section. SAA also collaborates with the Council of State Archivists, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, and the Regional Archival Associations Consortium on the CoSA/NAGARA/SAA/RAAC Joint Working Group on Issues and Awareness


Approved by the SAA Council: November 2017.

To view previous versions, see:

2015-2017 Public Policy Agenda

2012-2014 Advocacy Agenda

2009-2010 Advocacy Agenda

Advocacy Alerts