Access to Unprocessed Collections Policy and Procedures

The University of Arkansas Special Collections strives to make all research materials available for research as quickly as possible, subject to university policies and guidelines detailed below. Special Collections welcomes any researcher requests to use unprocessed collections for single-use, research purposes and asks that such requests be directed to Research Services, a unit within the Special Collections Division. While Special Collections endeavor to grant access to all requests, Special Collections must weigh access against its preservation, privacy, and administrative commitments.

When a researcher requests access to an unprocessed collection, a Research Services staff member will screen* the requested materials to determine that the unprocessed collection meets the criteria to be opened for access to researchers. . Research Services may restrict access to some or all of the unprocessed collection due to Special Collections' legal, institutional, and preservation responsibilities.

Criteria for making unprocessed collections accessible:

Personally-identifying Information (PII) and other types of protected information: The unprocessed collection does not contain any PII, student, medical, or employee/personnel records. If the materials containing confidential information can be safely removed from the collection in a reasonable manner and timeframe, Special Collections will consider opening access to the collection.

Research Services staff will attempt to remove any materials containing confidential information from the unprocessed collection before making it accessible for research; however, researchers should note that this may not always be possible.

Preservation: Many unprocessed collections present preservation concerns, some of which can be hazardous to human health, our facilities, and other materials in Special Collections. Therefore, all materials must undergo a preservation review before Special Collections can make them accessible to researchers. If it's possible to reasonably separate materials that require preservation treatment from the rest of the collection, Special Collections staff will make every effort to do so to allow access to the collection. In some cases, Research Services may create access copies of the original to increase the accessibility of a collection.

Administrative: If an unprocessed collection is scheduled to be processed within one month of the request, Special Collections will ask the researcher to wait until after the collection has been processed to conduct their research.

Donor-imposed Access Restrictions: Some donors may impose access restrictions to some or all of a donated collection during the donation process. Special Collections will not grant access to donor-imposed access restricted materials.

*Screening activities: In order for unprocessed materials to be made accessible, a Special Collections staff member must go through the requested containers to insure any legal or institutional obligations to restrict access are met and to confirm there are no environmental and human health hazards present. Special Collections also reserves the right to deny access to some or all of an unprocessed collection if the materials are deemed too fragile or unstable for handling. Special Collections provides up to 1.5 hours of screening activities AND research assistance per semester.


Some collections may include sensitive or confidential information protected under federal and/or state privacy laws and regulations or under donor terms of gift, including but not limited to medical, educational, or employment records; social security numbers; bank account numbers; or credit card numbers. Researchers who find sensitive information should notify a staff member and agree not to copy or disclose this information. The researcher assumes all responsibility for infringement of right to privacy in his/her use of the materials, and agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the University of Arkansas, its agents and employees against all claims, demands, costs, and expenses arising out of use of archival collections held by the University of Arkansas Libraries.