1. The Royal Anthropological Institute (hereafter 'the Institute') houses a collection of manuscripts and archives relating to the history of the Institute, and as a result of acquisition or donation by others of papers of professional anthropologists and of those writing about anthropological subjects.

2. In this document, ‘archives’ refers to the papers relating to the history of the Institute, mainly produced in-house or correspondence relating to the same; ‘manuscripts’ refers to outside donations of professional papers and related documents; ‘the collection’ refers to both and all of these; ‘the Institute’ refers to the Royal Anthropological Institute.

3. The purpose of the collection is to curate safely and make as much material as possible available for scholarly and scientific work, subject to the ethical and legal guidelines set out below, and within the resource constraints of the Institute.

4. The Institute also maintains a database of related collections in other UK institutions, and can assist enquirers by directing them to this material.

Ethical and Legal Guidelines

5. The Manuscripts and Archives department of the Institute operates in accordance with the general ethical guidelines developed by professional anthropological associations ( Its specific guidelines, and those of other parts of the Institute, are available at

6. The policy of the Institute is, in keeping with freedom of information values and legislation, to make the contents of all collections available to legitimate users.

7. This objective is made clear to potential donors, though in some cases we agree to embargo material where living subjects are identifiable. We also accept that privacy needs to be maintained in cases where the individuals who are the subject of material have had no say in the disposition of that material. This is frequently the case in fieldwork notes containing interviews with local informants, and the holder of any such material has a duty to ensure that any information freely given is not later misused in any way.

8. Care is taken not to infringe copyright or other legal responsibilities. Permission to copy certain materials will be granted by the Institute after receipt of a signed declaration that the material is for personal research only and will not be disseminated in any form. Permission to quote material in published works is granted separately when appropriate. Permission is always granted at the discretion of the archivist, and not withheld unnecessarily. Sufficient information about any prospective publication must be available before informed permission can be granted in order to ensure that material is not used inappropriately. The Institute reserves the right to charge where appropriate.

9. The general practice at the Institute is to keep material produced within the last thirty years out of the public domain in order to protect the privacy of living authors. In any case, where the author is alive and their whereabouts known, queries about access should be addressed to them if a general permission for use of material has not already been granted.


10. Day-to-day responsibility for the collections is in the hands of the Archivist, and any assistants working under her direction. Policy, acquisition and access issues are the responsibility of Council.

11. The collections are maintained according to best archival practice for cataloguing and indexing. Physical care of material is ensured by appropriate storage, and measures taken for conservation during use. Matters of security are addressed with regard to housing and access of material. Access to very fragile material may be restricted.

12. The catalogue is publically available at New material is announced on the website as soon as it is catalogued and available for study. New acquisitions are catalogued as rapidly as resources allow in order to be made accessible, and their use promoted.

Acquisitions policy

13. The Institute seeks to acquire material relevant to the study of anthropology and its history in the broadest sense, subject to the practical constraints of its management.

14. The Institute gives priority to the professional papers of living and dead anthropologists, and to the papers of other persons writing about anthropological subjects in a way that makes their content of value to scholarship and science. Decisions are also made with respect to the intrinsic scholarly value of the material, and on the basis of whether acquisition would enhance the value of existing parts of the collection.

15. Acceptance of material may depend on the Institute's capacity at any one time to catalogue and store the material. The Institute does not normally accept objects that are non-textual unless they are an intrinsic part of a text-based document. Photographs are normally acquired through a separate process (, though where these are an intrinsic part of a mostly text-based archive may be accepted as part of the Manuscripts and Archives collection.

Disposal policy

16. Manuscripts and Archives. Material accepted into the Collection after cataloguing will not be disposed of except in exceptional circumstances approved by the Manuscripts and Archives Committee and the Council of the Institute.

17. Archives. In-house documents will be pre-appraised by the Director and Archivist before being accepted into the Collection. It is accepted that all material of archival value should be accepted (and if necessary embargoed) though the Archivist may recommend to the Director that certain material of little archival value should be discarded subject to legal and ethical constraints.

Development policy

18. The Institute seeks to expand its collections, and manage them with increasing effectiveness. To this end it may apply for appropriate research grants, where existing budgetary allocations are insufficient.

19. The Institute will from time-to-time consider commercial dissemination through copying parts of the collection where there is a clear financial and scholarly benefit to the Institute, but only where this does not restrict access to the collection by scholars, and with due regard to ethical considerations..

20. The policy applies to both analog and digital material. The Institute is actively exploring ways of archiving email and similar digital records.