Forms & Policies:
Restriction Policy for Modern Political Archives
The Modern Political Archives is committed to making research materials available to users on equal terms of access. However, equal access does not imply that all materials are open for use by researchers.
The Modern Political Archives restricts access to unprocessed collection. Researchers interested in collections closed due to their unprocessed condition are encouraged to contact the archivist to indicate interest. Such petitions may play a factor in prioritizing the collection processing order.
The Modern Political Archives abides by restrictions imposed by donors in order to encourage the gift of historical materials which might otherwise be destroyed. On the other hand, the archives will not accept restricted collections without a clearly defined deadline for opening the records to research.
The Modern Political Archives may unilaterally impose restrictions on the following record types typically found in the papers of Members of Congress:
- Classified Materials
- Official Committee Records
- Case Files
Archivists will send any federal documents or other media clearly marked as classified to the Information Security Oversight Office at the National Archives for review. Once declassified, these items will return to the collection.
Official Committee Records:
The U.S. Congress retains ownership of all its official committee records. Archivists will make copies for the collection and send the originals to the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives. As for the copies, the Modern Political Archives will abide by Senate and House rules regarding restricted access to official committee records: House committee records will remain closed for 30 years; Senate investigation committee records for 50 years; and all other Senate committee records will open after 20 years.
Congressional offices create case files when constituents and other individuals seek the assistance of Congress members in negotiating a benefit, ruling, or reimbursement for personal gain from the federal government (and occasionally from state governments and private businesses). These files typically contain data such as Social Security numbers, military service records, or detailed medical and financial information. To prevent an invasion of privacy, the archives will restrict access to case files for 75 years after the last dated document in each file. Developed in consultation with actuarial tables, this time span is consistent with other repositories, such as the National Archives. With proof of identity, individuals may access their own file prior to that release date. In addition, researchers may request the files of those individuals that are deceased.