Last week for my post on archives in the news I talked about, what I considered, the unethical treatment afforded to researchers by local and state repositories. Next week’s readings include Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) Code of Ethics and Core Values Statement, the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Code of Ethics, and Philip P. Mason’s “The Ethics of Collecting,” which continues this theme of ethical archival work.
Mason’s 1977 article in Georgia Archive addressed prominent ethical issues in the archival field, among which were thefts from one’s own repository, defaming other archives to gain preference from a donor, and bribing donors with money or academic accolades. Mason’s primary reason for publishing this article was to draw attention within the field to what he considered serious ethical dilemmas in the hopes that archival leaders, like the Society of American Archivists, might establish a set of rules to curtail them. The concerns Mason raised in this article were interesting to read about, and although it has been forty years since this article’s publication, I wonder how many of these issues persist in the present? Do archivists still slander and libel other repositories to encourage donations? Paying donors for certain collections seems like a customary practice if the donor requests such payment, but do archives still encourage donations via monetary or academic rewards, like honorary degrees?
Among Mason’s final comments was that he hoped organizations like the SAA would codify an ethics standard for the archival profession. The SAA actualized this in 2005 when they approved their Code of Ethics, which they revised again in 2012. They further realized this goal in 2011 when they implemented their Core Values Statement. Other institutions have done this as well, like the Association of College and Research Libraries, which approved their own Code of Ethics for Special Collections Librarians, first in 1987, and a second time in 1993, and most recently in 2003. Some questions these dates raise for me, however, (with the exception of the ACRL’s Code of Ethics) is why it took nearly thirty years for the Society of American Archivists to codify an ethics statement. Mason cited them specifically in his article in 1977, yet his call for order went seemingly unheard for nearly thirty years. Was there extensive debate within the field prior to this Code of Ethics approval? Who was leading the charge for establishing this set of rules? I’ll certainly be interested in hearing more about this in class come next Wednesday.
 Philip P. Mason, “The Ethics of Collecting,” Georgia Archive, 1977: p. 50.
 Society of American Archivists, “SAA Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics,” Society of American Archivists, http://www2.archivists.org/statements/saa-core-values-statement-and-code-of-ethics. (Accessed 9/28/17).
 Association of College and Research Libraries, “Code of Ethics for Special Collections Librarians,” Association of College and Research Libraries, http://rbms.info/standards/code_of_ethics/. (Accessed 9/28/17).