Code of Ethics History

Code of Ethics History 

Society of American Archivists, Committee on Ethics and Professional Conduct (CEPC) 
Tiffany Schureman, Nancy Freeman, and Marc Brodsky
February, 2015 


The Society of American Archivists introduced its first Code of Ethics in the Summer 1980 issue of The American Archivist (Vol. 43, no. 3, p. 414–418). This text was followed immediately by commentary provided by the SAA Ethics Committee for the purpose of explaining and offering context for the specific statements and assertions contained in the Code. 

Updated in 1992 by the SAA Task Force on Ethics, the Code was again published by The American Archivist, and accompanied by commentary.  In this version, commentary was inserted directly into the Code and appeared following specific sections of the text. 

Another update occurred in 2005, this time without commentary.  Many SAA members argued that the code lost its “teeth” and that a need existed for an enforceable Code.  Discussion to revise the Code began almost immediately.

In 2008, SAA’s Committee on Ethics and Professional Conduct (CEPC) began planning another revision of the Code and drafted a proposal to Council to that effect.  Council approved the proposal in 2010 and in 2012, following revision by CEPC, Council approved the new, current Code.

The current Code is aspirational.  SAA does not have the means to enforce a code of ethics.  Both the Code of Ethics and the Core Values of Archivists (approved by Council in 2011), are meant to be read together as companion documents for the purpose of providing guidance to both students and professionals in the field.     

1992 Code of Ethics 

2005 Code of Ethics

1980 Code.pdf1.62 MB