Congressional Records as Public Records

The Society of American Archivists (SAA) promotes the protection and accessibility of Congressional records found in governments, organizations, and archives repositories as public records. Public records are any documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, created, made, or received by a government entity in the conduct of public business that are preserved, or are appropriate for preservation, as evidence of that entity’s organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities, or because of the information contained therein.

Because the U.S. government, including Congress, answers to the American people and protects our liberties and interests, the people have a vested interest in ensuring that the documentary record of their government is complete and accurate. Because these public records ensure the protection of individuals’ rights, the accountability of governments and organizations, and the accessibility of historical information, equal and equitable public access to government information is a cornerstone of our democracy. 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.  

Records of Congressional committees and individual Members of Congress that meet these criteria should be considered public records no matter the repository in which they are housed. Further, such records should be managed, maintained, and made accessible to researchers in accordance with archival and records management best practices and federal records laws, in collaboration with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).


Additional Resources

Final report of the National Study Commission on Records and Documents of Federal Officials, 1977,  

Past newsletters of the Congressional Papers Roundtable, especially Fall/Winter 2011-2012; Fall, 2013; Fall/Winter, 2015,  

H.Res. 5, Adopting rules for the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress, adopted January 3, 2017,


Approved by the SAA Council, July 2018.