Access and Use Policies

Williams Special Collections

Access to Collections

Most Special Collections materials are available for research without limitation, with limited exceptions for restricted College Records, for example:
  • Board of Trustee records (restricted for 50 years from date of creation)
  • Presidential papers and records (restricted for 50 years from date of creation)
  • Office of Human Resources records (restricted for 30 years from date of earlier of employee retirement, death or departure)
  • Office of Human Resources Presidents records (restricted for 150 years after death)
  • Student records (permanently restricted, contact the Office of the Registrar)
Individual offices and departments, donors, or creators of records occasionally impose additional restrictions as needed. Restricted records are available for review by authorized staff from the office of origin, or by individuals designated in a deed of gift. You may request access to restricted records by contacting the College Archivist or Chapin Librarian, who will consider your request in consultation with appropriate College officers. Subpoenas or other legal processes involving access to restricted records will be referred to College Counsel.


Reproduction requests are considered on a case by case basis depending on the condition and size of the material, and the quantity of images requested. Some items may be too fragile or too large to be scanned or photographed. Complete works created after 1900 are typically not copied in accordance with United States copyright law.

Reproduction rates and formats

Williams students, staff, faculty and alumni Other researchers
PDF Free of charge, subject to limitations $1 per scanned image
High resolution jpg or tiff (minimum 300 ppi unless otherwise specified) Free of charge, subject to limitations $20 per image
Photocopies Not typically provided. Contact staff for further information. Not typically provided. Contact staff for further information.

Typical turnaround time for reproduction requests is three weeks. All payments must be in USD (United States Dollar). Cash and check payments may be made in person and we do not accept credit cards. For long-distance requests, only checks are accepted and they must be payable to Williams College and drawn on a US bank. Images will be delivered upon receipt of payment.

The Library's charge for a reproduction does not imply an authorization to publish or reproduce material.  Please see our Copyright and Permissions policy below for more information.

Interlibrary Loan

Special Collections materials do not circulate, nor are they lent on Interlibrary Loan. The Library can, however, provide images from some of its holdings, depending on the magnitude of the request and the condition and dimensions of each item. Interlibrary Loan requests should be made through the Williams Libraries or you can send an email to 

Use of personal cameras

Williams Special Collections allows you to use personal cameras and scanners to create images of material, subject to the following conditions:
  • All requests must be approved by staff on an item-by-item or collection-by-collection basis
  • Only digital cameras, tablet cameras, cell phones, or flatbed scanners may be used
  • Unless permitted by staff, you may not stand on chairs or rearrange furniture to get a better image, and must remain facing forward. Please confer with staff regarding the use of tripods, flash, or special lighting. Audible features on cameras must be turned off. Staff will designate work locations for using cameras or scanners.
  • All materials must be handled carefully. Staff are available to assist you. Bound volumes must be supported in a book cradle, or as otherwise directed by staff; pressure must not be applied to bindings. Unbound material must be kept in order. Mylar must not be removed without permission from staff. You may be required to use a streamer/transparency to indicate origin of the material.
  • It is your responsibility to keep complete and accurate citations (complete location information or accession/call number) for all items photographed or scanned
  • No pictures may be taken of other researchers, staff, or visitors without their express permission
  • Staff reserve the right to deny requests or to revoke photographic/scanning privileges  

Copyright and permissions

Williams Special Collections welcomes you to use materials in the public domain and to make fair use of copyrighted materials as defined by copyright law.

Public Domain: You do not need to obtain permission to use materials in the public domain. (Cornell University publishes a chart that may help you to identify what is and is not in the public domain in the United States.)

Fair Use: The United States copyright law contains an exception for fair use of copyrighted materials, which includes the use of protected materials for certain purposes of teaching, scholarship, research, criticism, commentary, and news reporting. For guidelines on the fair use exception, please refer to the Website of the United States Copyright Office.

You are solely responsible for determining whether your use is fair and for responding to any claims that may arise from your use.

If you wish to use copyrighted materials for commercial or any purpose other than fair use, you must request and receive prior written permission from the copyright holder. Williams College does not assume responsibility for infringement of copyright. Williams College holds the copyright to College Records and a limited number of manuscript collections. You may request permission to publish material to which Williams owns copyright.

Manuscripts and archival records that were created after 1900 may contain personal or confidential information that is protected under federal or state regulations governing personal privacy and/or publicity rights. These rights are distinct from copyright and you may need to secure, for example, the consent of a person who appears in a photograph in order to comply with state privacy and publicity laws. You are solely responsible for addressing issues of privacy and publicity rights relating to use of the materials.

Crediting Williams Special Collections

For any use of the materials, you must cite Williams Special Collections as the source of the original material with the credit line below that corresponds to the appropriate collection:
  • College Archives and Special Collections, Williams College
  • Chapin Library, Williams College