Collection Access Policy

The following policy has been adopted by St. Mary’s Seminary & University in order to provide researchers with a statement on the procedures regarding access to and use of St. Mary’s Seminary & University records that are part of the Associated Archives. While the Associated Archives also houses the archival collections of the Associated Sulpicians of the United States and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, this Collection Access Policy applies only to materials that are owned by St. Mary’s Seminary & University. This policy has been approved by the Archives Oversight Committee as required by the Associated Archives Agreement dated May 3, 2004.

St. Mary’s Seminary & University opens its archives to all qualified researchers. In trying to balance the principles of both the right to know and confidentiality, we believe the access policy that has been adopted reflects sensitivity to the interests of both the researcher and St. Mary’s Seminary & University. Every effort is made to open the records for research as expeditiously as possible. The policies of the institution, however, require that some of St. Mary’s Seminary & University records be closed to researchers for varying lengths of time.

Placing restrictions on the research use of records for specified lengths of time is a standard archival procedure. Restrictions of reasonable length also facilitate research by ensuring the survival and completeness of the historical record.

All records transferred to the Archives are stored under secure conditions and in a controlled environment. Access to the area where the records are stored is restricted to Archives staff members and other authorized personnel. Removal of records from the Archives is prohibited unless authorized by the Director of the Associated Archives (the “Director”).

Authorized personnel from St. Mary’s Seminary & University offices may arrange for the transfer of records to the Archives or their retrieval at anytime. Please see the Records Transfer page for detailed instructions.

General Policy

Records in the St. Mary’s Seminary & University Archives will be open to qualified researchers for use under the supervision of the Director after 70 years from the date of their creation, except for employee files and any other records restricted by federal or state or canon law or otherwise classified as confidential by St. Mary’s Seminary & University.

Categories of Records

The Access policy is based on a four-part categorization of records series: open, restricted, confidential, and closed.

Open 

Publications, photographs, other records created for public dissemination and records designated as historical in nature are available to researchers without restriction. Records more than 70 years old from the “Restricted” series are treated as open for purposes of access unless otherwise stated. When necessary, records older than 70 years old may be closed to research use if they have not been reviewed and processed sufficiently to ensure their preservation and to identify any records that may require closure for longer than the stated duration.

Restricted 

Records, excluding exempted collections, are closed for 70 years beginning on the date on which the President, Rector, or President-Rector leaves office. The restriction applies to the entire body of records created during the President, Rector, or President-Rector’s tenure. Researchers may appeal to gain access to restricted records by submitting a Restricted Records Access Request Form. Access may be granted only after the Director has received written notice of permission from the President-Rector or his authorized representative specifying exactly which folders and boxes the user may examine. A Restricted Records Access Request Form can be obtained from the Director.

Confidential 

Records containing sensitive files for which access is granted only after the President-Rector or his authorized representative physically reviews the files and provides written permission.

Closed 

Personnel files of current or former employees of St. Mary’s Seminary & University (administrators, staff, and faculty) are closed for the lifetime of the employee plus 50 years, or 100 years from the date of creation, whichever comes first. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, an employee file may be released upon receipt of the written request of the employee or his or her legal representative.

Use of Records in Connection with Cases at Law or Legal Proceedings

Requests for permission to examine the records of the President, Rector, or President-Rector in connection with cases at law or legal proceedings of any kind will be referred to St. Mary’s Seminary & University legal counsel.

Appeals to Gain Access to Restricted Records

Appeals to gain access to restricted records shall be conducted in the following manner: 1) Researchers seeking access to restricted records are required to complete a Restricted Records Access Request Form. 2) Each request will be reviewed by the Director and the President-Rector or his authorized representative. 3) Decisions will be based on the merits of each case, weighing the needs of scholarship against the privacy rights of individuals and the legal interests of St. Mary’s Seminary & University. The Director and the President-Rector or his authorized representative must be satisfied that a researcher seeking access to restricted records has demonstrated that the records are required to carry out a legitimate scholarly research project or for other appropriate use. In all cases, the decision of the Director and President-Rector or his authorized representative shall be fair and reasonable, permitting the greatest possible access given the limitations imposed by legal and ethical considerations. 4) In order to come to such a decision, the Director and the President-Rector or his authorized representative shall meet, review the research proposal of the scholar petitioning for access, examine the materials to which he or she is requesting access, and discuss the case. In cases where the materials are voluminous, the Director shall review them and summarize their nature and content for the President-Rector or his authorized representative, presenting individual documents of particular concern. In cases of requests for innocuous materials, a less formal review process may be invoked consisting of a telephone call by the Director to the President-Rector or his authorized representative. 5) Decisions made by the Director and the President-Rector or his authorized representative shall be final.

Restricted Records Request Access Form