Archives and Special Collections materials are available to everyone via our digital collections, and staff can provide assistance via email, video appointments, and phone. The Archives and Special Collections reading room is currently open only to Mount Holyoke College students, faculty, and staff for in-person visits by appointment.
You can learn more about our access, use and other policies here, as well as how to place a request for digital scans and other services.
Any collection of unique material requires special handling. Archives and Special Collections’ policies are designed to provide researchers with the greatest possible access to the materials while also protecting and preserving those materials for future use.
Archives and Special Collections follows the Guidelines for Access to Original Research Materials, a joint statement of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and the American Library Association (ALA). In accordance with these guidelines, we will “not deny access to materials to any researcher, nor grant privileged or exclusive use of materials to any researcher, nor conceal the existence of any body of material from any researcher, unless required to do so by statutory authority, institutional mandate, or donor or purchase stipulation.” The same policies apply to any born-digital or electronic records held by Archives and Special Collections. We provide access to research materials in all formats according to the SAA-ALA “equal terms of access” principle.
Some material held by Archives and Special Collections is not immediately available to researchers because of legal requirements or institutional mandates. College archival records, other than widely distributed public documents such as catalogs, handbooks, publicity photographs, etc., will normally remain closed for a maximum period of twenty-five years from the date of their creation unless the office of origin has designated a shorter period. Access will be given to materials already twenty-five years old contained within a collection that is not yet open when such material can easily be isolated from the rest of the collection.
The only records that are closed for a longer period are:
- Board of Trustees records, 50 years
- Student records, 75 years
- Personnel records, 75 years
Other records may be restricted for more than twenty-five years with the permission of the office of origin and/or the President of the College or a Presidential designee.
During the restricted period, the records will be available only to the President's Office, the office of origin, and the staff of the Archives and Special Collections. Consideration will be given for access by others, particularly researchers unaffiliated with the College when a written request is presented to the Head of Archives and Special Collections and written approval has been obtained from the appropriate officer in the office of origin or the appropriate College officer now responsible for the function performed by the office of origin.
The records will be made available in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Archives and Special Collections, a department of the Mount Holyoke College Library and Federal and State regulations. (Approved by the Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees March 8, 1996.)
The researcher assumes full responsibility for use of the material and agrees to hold Mount Holyoke College harmless against all claims, demands, costs and expenses incurred by copyright infringement or any other legal or regulatory cause of action arising from the use of the materials.
In assuming full responsibility for use of the material, the researcher also understands that the materials they examine may contain personal identifiers and/or sensitive material on potentially living and identifiable individuals (e.g., medical, evaluative or personally invasive information). The researcher agrees not to record, reproduce or disclose any highly personal information that may be found.
The majority of Archives and Special Collections’ holdings are physical books, manuscripts, photographs and other materials that must be consulted in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room on the basement level of Dwight Hall. Tangible materials in our collection are housed in closed stacks and do not circulate.
A growing number of items from our collection have been digitized, and digital copies can be freely accessed via Five College Compass: Digital Collections.
Patrons who wish to use tangible material on site must complete a patron registration form and agree to follow the department's rules and regulations. More information about visiting Archives and Special Collections in person is available at plan your visit.
All users must complete a patron registration form and agree to abide by Archives and Special Collections’ rules and regulations prior to use of unrestricted materials in the collection in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room.
Access to materials may be restricted by condition of gift or deposit or because of their physical condition. Manuscript material is unique and irreplaceable, and no use is permitted that might jeopardize its preservation. In certain cases, readers may be required to consult digital or other copies of manuscripts, rather than originals.
In the Reading Room
Users may take pencils, paper, a personal computer or tablet, cameras, smartphones and other approved materials into the reading areas. Coats, backpacks, briefcases, books and other personal possessions must be stored in the lockers provided and are subject to inspection upon leaving.
Materials may be used only in the Archives and Special Collections Reading Room in Dwight Hall during regular hours. Arrangements can be made to have materials held for your use on a subsequent visit.
Physical protection of materials
Users are responsible for safeguarding all materials made available. Eating, drinking, smoking and vaping are not permitted. Only approved writing materials (pencils, personal computers, tablets or smartphones) may be used for taking notes while using material from the collection. “Flags” or paper markers are available for indicating material to be copied. Other methods of marking materials for copying are not allowed.
Materials may not be leaned on, written on, folded, traced or handled in any way likely to damage them. All materials must be handled with care. Staff will instruct researchers on the proper handling of items. Any researcher who fails to follow the instructions may forfeit the right to use the collections.
Users must keep papers in their folders, maintaining the order in which they are arranged and handling them as little as possible. A staff member should be notified if papers are found to be out of order. A staff member should also be shown any torn or very fragile materials that might be in need of repair. During use, folders must be kept flat on the table. Books must be used on the table, properly supported if necessary. Users may be asked to wear gloves when handling materials such as photographs and negatives.
Copyright and other laws
Use of manuscripts and published materials is subject to provisions of current copyright law. Laws against libel and invasion of privacy may also apply. Users assume full responsibility for any legal questions that may arise as the result of their use of materials in the collections.
Permission to publish
Permission to examine materials, or to obtain copies, does not imply the right to publish them, in whole or in part. Mount Holyoke College holds the copyright for some materials in our collections. Otherwise, it is the patron's responsibility to obtain permission from the appropriate copyright holder. (The WATCH File, maintained by the University of Texas at Austin, is a valuable tool for identifying copyright holders.) We do not claim any control over material in our collections for which copyright has expired. Although we do not charge publication fees, we ask patrons to notify Archives and Special Collections prior to publication of any material held in our collections to ensure accuracy of citations and credit lines.
If scanning or photocopying can be done without injury to the materials and does not violate copyright or other restrictions, a scan or paper copy of an item will ordinarily be made for the reader's personal use once a request form has been completed. Scanning orders will be delivered by email, usually within one week; paper photocopies may be picked up in Dwight Hall or will be sent by mail, usually within one week.
Personal digital cameras or smartphone cameras can be used in the Reading Room with permission from the Archives and Special Collections staff unless there are restrictions on a collection.
The location and description of collection materials referred to or quoted in papers (published or unpublished) should be cited accurately and completely. Proper citation helps the researcher who may wish to see records a second time, future researchers and Archives and Special Collections staff who may be asked to locate cited materials. The following sample citations illustrate the information to be included:
Rachel F. Brown, Class of 1920, Alumnae Biographical File, Appointment Bureau form, 31 January 1922, Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA.
K.S Holt to Virginia Apgar, 10 August 1962, Virginia Apgar Papers, Box 10, Folder 5, Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA.
Readers are asked to provide a free copy of any publication in which Archives and Special Collections material is referred to or quoted.
Confidentiality of research
Information about users’ work in Archives and Special Collections, including their topics and the materials used, is kept confidential.
Patrons who wish to obtain digital images of materials must complete a request form. Digital images are intended for personal research only and cannot be published in print or online without the consent of the appropriate copyright holders. All digital image requests will be reviewed by Archives and Special Collections staff because some materials are too physically fragile to withstand scanning. There is no fee charged for digital images, and they will usually be sent by email within one week.
Patrons may be allowed to use smartphones or personal cameras to take their own photographs of books and archival materials but must obtain permission from the Archives and Special Collections staff first. These images also are intended only for personal research use and cannot be published in print or online without the consent of the appropriate copyright holders.
Patrons interested in obtaining paper photocopies of materials must adhere to the same policies and restrictions governing digital image requests. Photocopies are intended for personal research only and cannot be published in print or online without the written consent of the appropriate copyright holder. All photocopy requests will be reviewed by Archives and Special Collections staff because some materials are too physically fragile to withstand photocopying. There is no fee charged for paper photocopies, and they will usually be sent by mail, or be available for pick-up in Archives and Special Collections, within one week.
Archives and Special Collections serves as the repository for special collections materials, rare books and the permanent institutional archives at Mount Holyoke. The department supports a wide range of patrons, including undergraduates, faculty and other researchers whose work relies on primary source materials.
Archives and Special Collections develops its collections primarily to support the curricular and research needs of the faculty and students of Mount Holyoke College; thus the collections encompass the broad sweep of a liberal arts education. The head of Archives and Special Collections is primarily responsible for the development of the collections, in consultation with the department staff, members of the faculty and colleagues in the Library.
Since 1996, the department has also been designated by the Board of Trustees as the repository for all College records of permanent historical value. In support of that mission, it collects a wide range of materials documenting the history of the College, including records pertaining to academic programs and courses of instruction, academic departments and committees, administrators and administrative offices and College museums. Further, the department collects a wide range of historical and biographical materials relating to students, alumnae, faculty, staff and other individuals connected with the College.
Our collecting mission is
- to preserve the official records of administrators and administrative offices; academic programs and courses of instruction; and academic departments and committees, insofar as they have permanent historical value, and
- to acquire, preserve and provide access to a wide range of primary research materials in their original formats, including books, manuscripts, archives, audiovisual materials, objects, realia and other items in support of the educational and research activities of our various constituencies.
Our mission to acquire and preserve materials is coupled with a strong commitment to outreach and access. Materials are described according to national standards established by the American Library Association and the Society of American Archivists. Archives and Special Collections curates exhibitions both in our physical space and online. We collaborate Library-wide to digitize collection materials and make them freely available online. We participate in a variety of social media platforms, including Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram, to highlight collection materials and engage with our community. We regularly host group visits for tours and classroom instruction sessions, and we actively seek to collaborate with faculty and students to incorporate our materials into the undergraduate curriculum.
Archives and Special Collections is responsible for serving the research needs of Mount Holyoke College faculty and students. To this end, the department seeks to collect in subject areas receiving substantial and sustained attention within the College community, those areas representing ongoing departmental research interests or those that are the focus of interdisciplinary programs.
Service to scholars on the national and international levels is also an important part of our mission. Archives and Special Collections seeks to play a role in the broader research community by building collections in areas not well covered by other repositories. Consequently, Archives and Special Collections draws visiting scholars to the Mount Holyoke campus and enhances the College’s overall reputation as a center for scholarship.
Subject areas collected
Throughout its history, the College has acquired interrelated collections of exceptional depth in various fields. These areas are described below, and they form the core of our retrospective and ongoing collection development efforts.
Existing collection strengths: From its founding in 1837, Mount Holyoke has played a unique and important role in the history of women’s higher education. In addition to our role as the official repository for College records of enduring value, we also seek to thoroughly document the history of student life and activities, the evolution of the College curriculum and the activities of Mount Holyoke alumnae. Areas of particular strength include the development of College traditions, policies, athletic activities and the debate over coeducation. In addition to serving historians of the College, we aim to support the work of scholars of higher education more generally.
Current collecting focuses: College history materials in the archives richly document Mount Holyoke’s founding, its major milestones, the development of the curriculum and many aspects of student life. We actively acquire student correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, photographs, photograph albums and ephemera from any period, as well as audio or motion picture recordings. We seek objects of various kinds insofar as they document student life, particularly if they are exhibitable. We selectively acquire students’ course notebooks, especially those from the 19th century. Because our coverage in most College publications is strong, we now generally accept only those issues or titles that fill in known gaps. We selectively acquire faculty papers if they demonstrate exceptional scholarly or teaching activity while a member of the Mount Holyoke faculty. Other topical areas of especially strong interest currently are student activism; student diversity with regard to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, etc.; student-faculty collaboration, both academically and socially; and artistic expression on campus. We selectively collect materials related to the history of the town of South Hadley, with a preference for materials with some direct link to College history.
Missionaries and travel
Existing collection strengths: One of the goals of the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary at its founding was that its graduates would serve as missionaries both within the United States and around the world. We hold extensive documentation of these activities in the form of diaries, letters, published books and other archival material. In addition to the obvious religious activities, these materials also provide unique accounts of international travel and politics during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Current collecting focuses: We seek to add manuscript and published material related to missionary activities by Mount Holyoke College students and alumnae. Personal diaries, correspondence and photographs are of particular interest in this area.
Types of materials collected
Archives and Special Collections collects books, journals, newspapers, yearbooks, annuals, manuscripts, archives, ephemeral materials, film, video and a variety of other original materials. Emphasis is placed on acquiring items in their original states.
We accept archival collections that contain a very broad range of formats and material types, including, but not limited to, paper documents, photographs, slides, film, computer files, sound recordings and objects.
Given the limitations on storage space for our collections, we cannot accept duplicate copies of items that we already hold. Exceptions may be made in instances where a second copy has unique features, but the general rule is against adding redundant copies of published works. In the case of Mount Holyoke College publications and ephemera, we retain a limited number of copies of each item and are generally not interested in acquiring additional copies of yearbooks, class albums, student publications, etc.
Archives and Special Collections is complemented by nearby collections of rare materials and primary sources. Included among these other collections are the Special Collections at Smith College; the Archives & Special Collections at Amherst College; the Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Massachusetts; and the Archives at Hampshire College. Our goal is to develop our collections so that we do not duplicate holdings of nearby institutions or enter into direct competition with them for collections and resources.
Last updated: March 2023
Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Web Archive Policy
What and Why We Collect
In support of its mission to collect, preserve, and share the stories of the Mount Holyoke College community, ASC regularly archives the Mount Holyoke College website. ASC captures sites that document MHC faculty and staff, administrators, organizations, departments, and student life.
How to Access
Portions of the MHC website of historical value are captured and made accessible by Archive-It, and can be searched and browsed through the public access portal.
Archives and Special Collections makes Mount Holyoke College’s Web Archives Collection available for educational and research purposes. Mount Holyoke College holds the copyright for the majority of the materials in the collection. Otherwise, it is the patron's responsibility to obtain permission from the appropriate copyright holder. For questions about copyright and use of material found in the Web Archives Collection, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take Down Policy
If you are a rights holder and are concerned that you have found material in the ASC web archive collections without your permission and believe our inclusion of this material violates your rights (e.g. inclusion is not covered by the Fair Use or other exemption to a copyright holder’s rights), please contact email@example.com.
If you do not see your department’s website in Archive-It, or if you would like a more timely snapshot of your page arranged (e.g. in anticipation of redesign or deprecation), please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Approved: May 5, 2012, Board of Trustees
History: previous Policy titled Mount Holyoke College Records Retention Policy, updated 16 January 2007, available in Archives & Special Collections
Office/Administrator Responsible: As per Policy
Mount Holyoke College retains and preserves vital records of its business and operations to preserve an historical record of the college, ensure current and future operations, comply with its legal obligations, optimize the use of space, and minimize the cost of record retention. Mount Holyoke College will retain such vital records for a length of time that is appropriate to their nature and as is required by law and destroy unneeded records in accordance with applicable laws and college policy.
Purpose and scope
The purpose of this policy is to:
- Define Mount Holyoke College records;
- Define the responsibilities of departments and employees for college records;
- Define the College Archives’ authority over college records;
- Provide best practices for managing college records.
Mount Holyoke College creates, manages, and uses a wide variety of college records to conduct its affairs and support its educational mission. College employees who create, manage, and use records are responsible for the proper management and disposition of their records. This policy applies to all college records regardless of format or storage media, whether the record is created on college-owned equipment or otherwise, whether the document is stored on campus or otherwise, or any other variant.
This policy applies to all college divisions and departments.
College records definition
Records are information fixed on any media. College records are those that Mount Holyoke employees create or receive in any format in the course of college business. College records are the property of Mount Holyoke College. College records exist in a variety of forms, including but not limited to, paper and electronic documents, microforms, audio and video recordings, databases, and electronic mail messages. College records include but are not limited to minutes; correspondence; memoranda; financial records, such as invoices, journals, ledgers, purchase orders, grant documentation, and other information pertaining to fiscal matters; published materials, including reports and newsletters; moving images and photographs; sound recordings; drawings and maps; and computer data or other machine readable electronic records, including electronic mail. Typically, but not necessarily, college records fall into the following categories: personnel (staff and faculty), student, alumnae, financial, research administration, health and safety, physical plant, and general administration and management records.
College records definition: exceptions
The following records and documents are not college records:
- Faculty members’ records that they create or receive in the conduct of their teaching, research, or professional activities are not college records. However, records held by faculty that they create or receive in the conduct of student advising, committee work, research administration, or program, department, or school administration, are college records. Faculty members (or their departments) are encouraged to contact the College Archives before they leave or retire from the College to discuss the retention of their papers and records for historical preservation.
- Staff members’ records that they create or receive in the conduct of their non-Mount Holyoke professional activities are not college records. Staff members (or their departments) are encouraged to contact the College Archives before they leave or retire from the College or their departments to discuss the retention of their papers and records for historical preservation.
- Grant recipients will have files related to external support. There are special rules that apply to funds received from the Federal government and each grant may have its own set of rules and requirements related to records. All grantees are responsible for helping the College comply with these rules and requirements.
- Extra copies of publications kept for distribution.
- Personal or private documents neither created nor received in the course of college business.
Authority and responsibilities
The Mount Holyoke College Archives is the steward of college records of enduring value, in any form, that are entrusted to its care. As the archival repository for all college records, it has the authority to collect, appraise, describe, preserve, and make available college records of enduring value in compliance with appropriate laws and regulations. The College Archives advises faculty, staff, and administrators on the proper management and disposition of their departments’ college records.
The College Archives shall consult with appropriate staff or faculty regarding any special conditions of access that it may need to place on any records. In the absence of specific restrictions, the College shall open all college records under its stewardship to researchers on a non-discriminatory basis, according to its general policy on access to archival collections. The College Archives is responsible for determining the appropriate disposition for college records in consultation with the necessary faculty, staff, and administrators.
Departments and Offices
All departments and offices are responsible for properly managing their college records. The staff or faculty member in charge of department records, or the staff or faculty member in charge of the records of official committees, is responsible for consulting with the College Archives to determine the proper disposition of their college records in compliance with appropriate laws and regulations and records schedules. Departments shall destroy college records scheduled for destruction in accordance with the appropriate records schedules and College Archives procedures. Departments shall transfer college records scheduled for transfer to the College Archives in compliance with College Archives procedures to ensure the safety and security of the records while in transit.
Employees of Mount Holyoke College are responsible for being aware of this College Records Policy and properly managing the college records in their care. Staff may seek guidance from their supervisors or from the College Archives.
Summary of best practices for managing records
Departments and offices must manage their college records in a trustworthy manner that ensures their authenticity. In order to do this, departments and offices must:
- Create records that accurately document their core activities.
- Manage and store their records in a manner that facilitates timely and accurate retrieval.
- Ensure that they store their records in secure locations and safe, stable environments.
- Allow only those with the proper authority to have access to their records.
- Know and carry out the proper disposition of their records, that is, know what to do with their records when they no longer actively use them.
- Know and comply with the Mount Holyoke policies and the external laws, regulations, standards, and professional ethics that affect the management of their records.