Public Access Policy
Public access to the records of the Episcopal Church is governed by policies adopted by the Board of Archives and by agreements with private donors. Generally, records older than thirty years are open to the public unless they contain personal information. The ability of the Archives’ curators to respond to public requests for information is highly dependent on their availability. Priority is given to Church leaders and members who are engaged in the mission and support work of The Episcopal Church.
Researchers are asked to submit their inquiry using the Research Request Form. Quick reference or fact checking questions that can be answered in less than 30 minutes are handled without further application. In depth use of the Archives requires the researcher to complete a letter of Application for the Examination of Archives (available through the Request Form). The accompanying cover letter will help the curators determine whether the holdings contain documentation that speaks to the inquiry.
Public access and reasonable requests for personal use copies of records are typically granted. Inquirers should be aware, however, that certain restrictions are imposed based on the age of the documents, their physical condition, copyright, or level of content sensitivity. Any one of these factors may result in withholding access. Records in the Archives are categorized as:
Open Records. Most records in the Archives older than 30 years are open to the public. Regardless of age, all published or formally printed records distributed by the Society are open as are minutes of the General Convention, the Executive Council, and the official bodies of General Convention; records of Episcopal organizations; and personal papers not restricted by the donor.
Confidential Records. Records containing personnel information, personal identifying data, and similar sensitive content are withheld from public access. Confidential records are closed for a period of 80 years.
Restricted Records. Most official records are withheld from public browsing and physical inspection for a period of 30 years as they constitute privileged operational data and current communications of the creating Episcopal Church body or agency.
Access to records older than 30 years may also be restricted if the records are inaccessible for reasons of remote storage, have not been processed or appraised, contain unseparated personal information, or are restricted by the donor. Special access to information in Restricted Records may be granted when access serves an essential public interest over and above a private research agenda or when it fulfills a vital personal need. Confidential records are not released and access is possible only in unusual and compelling circumstances. Discretionary decisions regarding access and disposition are reserved to the Canonical Archivist of The Episcopal Church.
All records and papers of The Archives of the Episcopal Church, unless otherwise noted, are the property of The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. Researchers are required to request permission to publish beyond fair use and to assign credit in print to the Archives as the rights owner.