Comments Sought on Proposed Revision to SAA Code of Ethics

Charged by the SAA Council to propose revisions to the Society's Code of Ethics, the Committee on Ethics and Professional Conduct is soliciting comments on the draft presented below.

The code was last revised in 1992. On advice of legal counsel, this draft revision eliminates commentary on each principle, as well as guidelines and procedures for interpretation of the code and mediation of disputes. In addition, to simplify and clarify the new code, the committee has removed the portions of the 1992 code that addressed matters of individual professional conduct or institutional best practice, rather than ethical principles per se. The proposed code is intended to be aspirational.

The proposed revision is open for member comment, and will be discussed at an open forum at SAA's 68th Annual Meeting on Wednesday, August 4, from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m., in the Georgian Room at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. To share your opinions and ideas via email, send your comments to

Draft Revision to SAA Code of Ethics


A code of ethics for archivists should establish high standards for archival practice. It should introduce new members of the profession to those standards, remind experienced archivists of their professional responsibilities, and serve as a model for institutional policies. A code of ethics should also inspire public confidence in the profession.

This code is intended to provide an ethical framework to guide members of the profession, and not to provide specific solutions to particular problems.

The term "archivist" as used in this code encompasses all those concerned with the selection, control, care, custody, preservation, and administration of historical and documentary records of enduring value.

I. Purpose

The Society of American Archivists recognizes the importance of educating the profession and general public about archival ethics by codifying ethical principles guiding the work of archivists. This code provides a set of principles to which archivists aspire.

II. Professional Relationships

Archivists select, preserve, and make available historical and documentary records of enduring value. Archivists cooperate, collaborate, and respect each institution and its mission and collecting policy. Respect and cooperation form the basis of all professional relationships with colleagues and users.

III. Judgment

Archivists should exercise professional judgment in acquiring, appraising, and processing historical materials. They should not allow personal beliefs or perspectives to affect their decisions.

IV. Trust

Archivists should not profit or otherwise benefit from their privileged access to and control of historical records and documentary materials.

V. Authenticity and Integrity

Archivists strive to preserve and protect the authenticity of records in their holdings by documenting their creation and custodial history and preserving the intellectual and physical integrity of those records. Archivists may not alter, manipulate, or destroy data or records to conceal facts or distort evidence.

VI. Access

Archivists strive to promote open and equitable access to their services and the records in their care without discrimination or preferential treatment, in accordance with cultural sensitivities, institutional policies and legal requirements.

VII. Privacy

Archivists respect the privacy of donors, users, and individuals and groups who are the subjects of records or who had no voice in their creation or donation. Archivists should respect the confidentiality of information in the records in their custody and recognize all legal, social, cultural, spiritual, and indigenous restrictions to access.

VIII. Security/Protection

Archivists protect documentary materials in their custody, guarding them against defacement, physical damage, deterioration, and theft. Archivists should cooperate with colleagues and law enforcement agencies to apprehend and prosecute thieves and vandals.

IX. Law

Archivists become familiar with and uphold all federal, state, and local laws and statutory requirements pertaining to custody of archival records and archival practice.