Access to Collections

General Overview

Archival records must be used in the reading room of the Archives, except that the office of record may retrieve material from its files for reference. The office of record is the office responsible for the creation of the records or the appointment of the committee or other group that created them.

University administrative records

These include records of the officers of the University, as defined in the Bylaws, the deans of schools and colleges, and departments, institutes, and other offices as designated by the President. For a period of twenty-five years from the origin of the material, permission in writing from the director of the office of record and the University Archivist is required for use. After twenty-five years, records that have been processed may be consulted with the permission of the University Archivist. (Issued by the Office of the Chancellor, December 1, 1975) 
Please note that this policy does not include access to records that contain Protected Health Information (PHI) as defined in the HIPAA regulations.

Records of the Board of Trustees

These include minutes and supporting documentation of the Board, its Executive Committee, and standing and ad hoc committees, and reports, studies, and the like presented solely to the Board. Records which have been existence for at least fifty years are available for scholarly research with the permission of the University Archivist. Access to records which have been in existence for less than fifty years shall be granted only by special permission, in writing, of the Board of Trustees. (Duke University Board of Trustees, Minutes, February 24-25, 1989)

Student records

In accordance with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974/1976 (FERPA), Duke University permits students to inspect their education records and limits the disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records. Education records include those records which contain information directly related to a student and which are maintained as official working files by the University. The web site of the Office of the Registrar has the official statement of the University's policy and procedures under FERPA.

Medical records

The Medical Center Archives is not the official repository for inactive medical records. All inquiries regarding such records should be directed to Health Information Management at 919-684-2615.

In response to growing concerns about keeping health information private, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). The legislation includes a privacy rule that creates national standards to protect individuals' personal health information. Most health-care providers in the country are required to implement these standards by April 14, 2003. The web site of the Duke University Health System has the official statement of the University's policy and procedures under HIPAA.

Some other considerations

  • Advance notice is required to use records that are stored off site.
  • Individuals or organizations donating material to the Archives may set conditions on use.
  • Fragile or unprocessed materials may be closed at the discretion of the Medical Center Archivist.

Questions? Contact the Archives staff at 383-2653 or e-mail us at