Archives Collection Policy

Statement of Purpose of the Institution and is Collections

The principal goal of the Emerson College Archives is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and make available to students, faculty, staff, and qualified researchers materials of all formats that record the operation of the College and the activities of the diverse College community. The Archives supports the research and institutional needs of Emerson College as well as its unique core curriculum with its special collections and services. Through promotion and preservation of these primary source materials, the Archives connects people with information and ideas intended to encourage creativity and lifelong learning.

In addition to collecting the institutional records of Emerson College, the Archives also collects materials that support the core curriculum of the College. A subset of those Special Collections includes the American Comedy Archives, which was established to acquire, preserve, and make available primary source material that documents the professional activities of groundbreaking individuals who have written, produced, or performed comedy for radio, television, motion pictures, or live performance. The American Comedy Archives contain a wealth of primary source material related to American comedy and reflects the College's view that examining the history, sociology, and culture of comedy represents an important and underrepresented field of study.

Collecting Scope

The Emerson College Archives collects records (paper, visual and electronic), papers and manuscripts, publications, and other historical materials documenting the intellectual, cultural, administrative, and social life of Emerson College from the 19th century to the present. The Archives serves as the principal repository for the institutional records of the College. The Archives seeks to document the faculty, students, and academic programs at the College as well as Emerson’s central administration, theaters, and affiliated organizations.

The Archives also collects historical materials that support the core curriculum of the College, which includes manuscripts, photographs, video, and film materials, oral histories, and other materials. In addition to special collections, Emerson College maintains the American Comedy Archives, which collects manuscripts, photographs, video, and film materials, oral histories, and other materials dedicated to exploring the nature of comedy as an American art form from the 19th century to the present.

The following are materials collected by the Emerson College Archives


The Emerson College Archives collects records and publications created in the course of College business from ca. 1880 to the present that have permanent historical value in documenting programs, decisions, and individuals at Emerson.

These include:

  • Administrative records
  • Academic records
  • Annual Reports
  • Catalogs
  • Correspondence
  • Committee files
  • Films
  • Financial records and associated papers
  • Legal records
  • Magazines (student)
  • Minutes
  • Operational records
  • Personnel records
  • Photographs
  • Printed material
  • Programmatic records
  • Publications (student and organizational)
  • Scrapbooks
  • Sound recordings
  • Student Handbooks
  • Videotapes
  • Yearbooks


The Emerson College Archives collects Graduate Thesis Production Projects, which are thesis alternates produced in various media formats (including digital and analog) in partial fulfillment of the master's degree requirements at Emerson College. The Archives has collected and provided access to the non-print component of these projects since 1985. The print component, normally a production book, is maintained by the Library.


The Emerson College Archives collects materials in any format that document faculty, student, and alumni organizations.


The Emerson College Archives collects the personal and professional papers and materials of selected faculty, alumni, and staff members that document a specific aspect or era in the Colleges' history.


The Emerson College Archives collects material that is not created in the course of Emerson business but which is related to the core curriculum of the college. Material collected includes published books on the history of Emerson College and may include records and other materials collected or created by non-Emerson individuals and organizations that enhance our knowledge of Emerson College.

Collecting areas include:

  • Comedy
  • Film
  • Journalism
  • Performing Arts
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Theater


The Emerson College Archives selectively collects materials in all formats related to American comedy.

The following are materials collected by the Emerson College Archives as part of the American Comedy Archives

  • Oral histories
  • Performance Footage: films, DVDs, audio recordings, etc.
  • Personal papers of comedians that have a notable national or regional reputation
  • Artifacts: props, costumes, etc.
  • Original cartoons: political, comic strips, web-based
  • Photographs
  • Comedic writing
  • Comedic advertisements
  • Materials that document aspects of performing, producing, and directing for television or the stage (includes musical and other types of comedy)
  • Materials that document aspects the business of comedy: major producers, agents, etc. that helped break new ground (e.g. Hugh Hefner)

Gifts Policy

The Emerson College Archives is happy to accept donations that fall within its collection scope. Any collection accepted commits us to the task of organizing and preserving it, which involves hand labor and costs for archival supplies. Donors are encouraged to include a monetary donation to fund the cost of processing and preserving their materials.

Due to limited staffing, budget and space, all donations or gifts are subject to review by the Head of Archives and Special Collections or the Executive Director of the Library and may be declined. Partial collections are discouraged, but may be reviewed at the discretion of the Archives.

When a donation is accepted, a deed of gift must be signed by the donor specifying the materials to be donated. This deed of gift will be negotiated between the donor and Emerson College. Special conditions may be specified by the donor, but the Archives may refuse any donation in which it deems the conditions of use overly restrictive.

Donors may make arrangements to examine the material they have donated and can be given a copy of any inventories, finding aids, or other research materials produced by the Archives about the donated material.

Emerson College is a nonprofit organization and has been granted tax-exempt status by the IRS. Donations may qualify as tax-deductible. This, however, does not permit the archivist to appraise gifts. Under IRS regulations, no library, archive, or museum can perform an appraisal. A list of qualified appraisers will be provided upon request.

The Emerson College Archives does NOT collect:

  • Materials that are irreparably damaged or infested by insects or mold.
  • Materials in which the donor's ownership is in question or disputed.
  • Duplicate materials will not be accepted due to lack of space.
  • Collections that contain materials that do not fit within the scope of the Emerson College Archives.
  • Partial collections.
  • Photocopies of materials donated to another repository.
  • Collections for which the Archives is unable to provide sufficient support to preserve and provide access to archival records.
  • Collections for which the Archives is unable to provide suitable space, staffing, supplies, and equipment. While the lack of one or more of these does not constitute a compelling reason for refusing archives and manuscripts, deficiency in one or more may constitute grounds for a temporary delay in their acquisition. During periods of severe deficiency in any of these areas, the Archives will give priority to new accessions of internal records whenever possible.
  • The Archives will not accept permanent loans of materials and will not assume liability for materials not owned by Emerson College.

Cooperative Agreement

The Emerson College Archives will not collect material that is related to a specific person or institution that is already comprehensively covered by another archival institution.

Guidelines Review

The Emerson College Archives Collecting Policy will be reviewed and evaluated every 5 years to ensure that the mission of the Archives is being met.