Collections Access Policy

Close-up of two sets of children's hands with palm side down.

Close-up of two sets of children's hands with palm side down. Imperial Royal Institute for the Education of the Blind, Vienna, 1878-1898

Perkins School for the Blind is committed to making its archival collections accessible to researchers according to the guidelines below. You will be asked to sign a form indicating that you agree to abide by our use guidelines before you start your research.

Access to Unprocessed Collections

Unprocessed archival and manuscript collections are generally considered to be open for research, provided they are not restricted. However, the Archives may need to delay access for a reasonable period of time to inventory the records or stabilize fragile materials.

Requests must be made at least one full week in advance for any unprocessed collections.

Digitized materials

For preservation reasons, we do not generally provide access to physical materials that have been digitized. We’re glad to check on specific issues such as obstruction of text or an illegible scan.

We recognize that sometimes the physical item is relevant, especially for tactile materials. If this is the case for your specific project, please describe your goals clearly in your research application form. Also let us know whether you would like to handle a specific item, or whether other similar items would also work for you.

Restricted access materials

Some materials are restricted access: these include student files and other items that include identifying information about private individuals. Access to these materials requires our approval of a specific project proposal, additional documentation, and a signed agreement.

Restricted access material cannot be photographed, scanned, or otherwise digitized.

Access and Use of Materials


  • Appointments to work with archives materials must be made in advance, since staff must be available throughout your visit. We ask for appointments to be made at least a week in advance, but more advance notice is preferred.
  • A research application must be submitted with a request for visit. Research visits are available Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., with the exception of Perkins holidays.

Physical access

  • Materials may only be used in the designated research area.
  • Only pencils (no pens), paper, computer, audio recorders, and cameras (including those on a phone) may be used to take notes. Laptop computers, digital cameras, audio recording devices, and handheld scanners are permitted.
  • Bags are not permitted in the Reading Room. Staff will show you where you can store your belongings.
  • All food and drink are strictly prohibited from the research space.
  • Perkins staff must be in the Reading Room at all times when collections are being used. If a staff member is not available or must leave, you may be asked to delay or reschedule your visit.
  • Staff will inspect all materials at the end of the appointment before you leave.

Handling collections

  • You will be asked to wash your hands before you begin handling archival materials.
  • Use one folder from a box at a time and maintain the existing order within each folder and box. All materials should be viewed flat on the table.
  • Do not write on, lean on, or write over documents. Tracings may not be made.
  • Be careful not to let laptops, notebooks, or other objects rest on top of books or archival materials.
  • Only acid-free slips (provided by staff) should be placed in materials. Do not use Post-It notes.
  • Use of materials will be directly monitored by a designated staff member.

Photocopies and Reproductions

  • You may request photocopies and reproductions of materials during your visit. Copies will only be made when they can be produced without any damage to the materials and will not violate United States copyright law. Some items may not be copied if they contain sensitive information, as determined by staff. Staff will make all photocopies and digital reproductions.
  • Staff may need to review items to determine whether they are eligible for reproduction. We may not be able to complete this review during your visit.
  • Materials that are available in digital format may not be photocopied or scanned.
  • You may be able to make copies using your own camera for personal use. Staff will confirm if this is allowed for the specific materials being used.
  • Any images taken during your visit are for personal research use only and may not be distributed, shared, or published without explicit permission from Perkins School for the Blind. Permission to photograph does not constitute permission to publish.
  • When acknowledging Perkins as the source of materials, please use this credit line: Courtesy of Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, Mass.