A well-organized records system has many benefits. Easy access to your materials can help when you are creating new work, restaging an older work, applying for grants, responding to requests from researchers, loaning items for exhibitions, transferring your archive to another organization, or selling your business. If you needed to pull your lease, 501(c) status, budgets, and resumes for all your employees for an audit or grant application, how long would it take you to find these materials?
Digital Materials: If you hold rights to photographs, videos, posters, etc., and have digitized them, you can add them to your website to create access to your history. The Performing Arts Legacy Project is an online platform to help older professionals in the performing arts to document their career and create sites to share their legacy.
Physical materials: Policies protect your materials when accessed by, borrowed by, or transferred to outside people and institutions. Segregate sensitive files, keeping files with information such as passport or social security numbers separate so that they can be removed before outside access is given to the materials. If you are lending materials for an exhibition, the borrowing institution may have policies in places that you will be asked to read and sign. See the guidelines below for more information on lending. If you are a seasoned artist ready to part with your materials, you will need to speak directly with the institution you wish to give your archive to. Need further assistance? View the Society of American Archivists' Guide to Donating Your Organizational Records to a Repository and the Black Metropolis Research Consortium's Guide to Donating Archival Materials.
If you donate your materials to an archival repository, you will be asked to sign a Deed of Gift, a formal legal agreement that transfers ownership and legal rights to the collection. Read a brochure from the Society of American Archivist that provides information about what you can expect:
Look at sample deeds of gift:
If you plan to provide research access to your materials while they remain in your possession, develop written procedures for how people can gain access. This will protect your materials and save time when you deal with research requests.
Before setting up guidelines for access procedures, be sure you understand how your staff is using materials and how systems might be made more efficient. Use or adapt this survey text to gather information.
Lending institutions bear the dual responsibility of making their holdings as accessible as possible while setting conditions and methods for lending materials that minimize the risks to the materials. In balancing these responsibilities, lending institutions generally should give priority to the safeguarding and long-term preservation of the materials requested for loan. In determining whether materials should be loaned and for how long, lending institutions may also consider the needs of users who may expect to have ready access to materials locally. Final authority regarding whether to lend the requested materials, to provide or allow reproductions, or to accept any specific loan arrangement or terms rests with the lending institution in keeping with its ultimate responsibility as the owner or legal custodian of the materials.1. Review requests to borrow special collections materials with due regard for the access, security, and preservation needs of the requested materials.
2. Ensure that the institution has proper ownership or authority to lend the requested materials.
3. Determine the measures needed to safeguard the materials throughout the loan process and term.
4. Inform the borrowing institution in writing of any legal requirements or other restrictions and conditions concerning the use, display, reproduction, or citation of the loaned materials.5. Respond to all loan requests in a timely and professional manner.6. Offer to provide appropriate substitutes, such as reproductions or related materials, if the original materials cannot be lent.