Access and Use Policies

Hours and Appointments

The Institute Archives and Special Collections serves Rensselaer students, faculty, staff, and alumni as well as other researchers interested in conducting research with the unique materials housed within the Institute Archives and Special Collections.

Please note that due to Rensselaer's Bicentennial celebration in 2024, we are prioritizing research to fulfill the needs of the Rensselaer Community. Due to increased demand, we cannot predict how long it will take to respond to non-RPI-affiliated researchers. 

All researchers must use the Archives Reference and Research Submission Form to request information and access to collections. An Archivist will respond with next steps.

  • The Archives reading room is reserved for individuals using archival collections or rare books.
  • This is a designated “quiet space” for focused research and we ask that guests in the reading room not disturb other researchers.
  • PLEASE silence cell phones and other electronic devices. Phone conversations are not permitted.

Permissible and Impermissible Items in the Reading Room

Patrons' belongings will be put away before they can access collection materials. No pens, markers, or other potentially harmful writing utensils are allowed; only pencils may be used for taking notes. No smoking, food, chewing gum, or beverages are allowed in the reading room. Researchers may bring pencils, notes, and/or laptop computers into the reading room. All other belongings, including coats, books, briefcases, purses, and other items will be stored away from the research area. Patrons are subject to search before departure from the reading room. Patrons must request permission in advance to use cameras or other photographic equipment (see photograph policy below).

This policy is designed to assist readers with their research by permitting limited use of digital still cameras. Physical condition, copyright issues, donor restrictions, curatorial decisions and other factors may limit or prohibit photography. Photographs are for personal study purposes only and cannot be reproduced, shared via email, transferred to any other individual, institution, or collection, exhibited, performed, broadcast, published, posted on the Internet, or used commercially.

Use of digital cameras is subject to the following conditions:

  1. Those wishing to use digital cameras in the reading room must first review their needs with an archivist, fill out and sign a registration form provided by the assisting archivist.
  2. Researchers understand that use of cameras are allowed under fair use provisions for personal study and images of archival content taken during their visit to the Institute Archives and Special Collections research room may not be published without explicit permission provided by a Rensselaer Archivist.
  3. Archivists may limit the number of photos made by the researcher and may require the use of a paper or Mylar flag to be placed on materials which will read, “Original housed in the Institute Archives and Special Collections at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.”
  4. It is the responsibility of each researcher to keep complete and accurate citations for all items photographed. Requests for permission to quote or subsequent orders for high-resolution photographic images cannot be processed without this citation.
  5. Cameras may not be brought into the reading room until necessary approvals have been obtained. Researchers need to allow sufficient time for curatorial approval and photography.
  6. All photography will be conducted using ambient lighting. No tripods, flash, or copy stands may be used. Audible features on the camera must be turned off. Personal scanners are prohibited.
  7. Materials must be handled properly and with great care.
    1. Bound volumes must be supported by a book cradle, unless otherwise instructed. No pressure beyond book weights, snakes, or other items provided by the Department may be applied to the bindings, text block, or any other material.
    2. Loose manuscript material must remain in its folder, flat on the table at all times and kept in the original order. Fastened items may require special handling; do not attempt to separate fastened material. Please see the Archivist before proceeding.
    3. Photographs and documents may not be removed from plastic sleeves.
  8. No photographs may be taken of the room, readers, or staff.
  9. Photographs will be taken at the researchers table.
  10. Patrons may not stand on chairs or desks or rearrange furniture to obtain a better image.
  11. The Department reserves the right to obtain a digital copy of any images obtained by the researcher under this policy.


The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or other reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or other reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse the use of a digital camera if, in its judgment, such use would involve a violation of copyright law. Further, the user agrees to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute against all claims, demands, costs and expenses incurred by copyright infringement or any other legal or regulatory cause of action arising from the use of the Library’s facilities or materials.

  • We highly recommend that your research topic be discussed with an archivist in advance.
  • Materials may be restricted because of fragility or poor condition. An Archivist will assist with secondary resources or require the use of access copies.
  • The Archives reserves the right to limit the number of materials issued at one time.

Archives and Special Collections materials are rare, unique and original, and must be handled with care. They must not be marked, torn, cut, folded, leaned on, handled roughly, or otherwise damaged.

  • Archivists reserve the right to limit access when carelessness results in endangering collections.
  • Archival collections do not circulate. Materials cannot be removed from the Reading Room.
  • All material must remain on the table, please do not use your lap as a table.
  • Do not place notepads, laptops, or any personal notes or items on top of folders or archival material.
  • Do not remove material for copying or scanning. Speak to an archivist for instructions.
  • Do not trace archival materials, or take notes on top of them.
  • Never adhere post-it notes, paperclips, or other potentially harmful items to collection materials.
  • Notify staff of any items that require preservation attention.
  • Always maintain the existing order of materials within each folder and box.
  • Never rearrange or alter the location of archival materials.
  • Do not separate materials from their folders.
  • Archival materials are never loaned and are not to leave the premises under any conditions.

  • Self-service copying is not available.
  • Personal scanners are prohibited.
  • Prior permission is required for the use of cameras. Please review the camera use policy.

  • Original materials cannot be published without the appropriate written permission of an Archivist.
  • Permission to copy, quote from, or publish, the Archives does not surrender its own right to publish such material or to grant permission to others to do so.
  • Access to the Institute Archives and Special Collections does not convey permission to publish or distribute this material in any format.
  • Any researcher who quotes directly from unpublished materials (for use in an unpublished or published paper) must use proper citations as follows: "[Collection Identifier, Collection Title]. [Folder #, Box #]. Institute Archives and Special Collections, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY.
  • One copy of any published work that includes materials used in the Institute Archives and Special Collections must be presented to the Archives at no cost.

Photocopying of Archival Materials: Archives and Special Collections offers photocopy services under the following conditions:

  • Researchers are not permitted to make their own photocopies of archival materials.
  • Archives and Special Collections staff may refuse photocopy requests of rare, fragile, or oversized materials. Alternative reproduction solutions (e.g. photographs, scans) may be possible in these circumstances.
  • A maximum photocopy order of 50 pages may be placed at one time. See staff regarding current photocopy fees.
  • No more than 10% of a collection may be photocopied for a patron.
  • Photocopying requests are filled by the Archives and Special Collections staff, and may require time to process.
  • Photocopies may not be deposited in another repository under any circumstance.
  • Photocopies may not be further reproduced.
  • Supplying a photocopy is not authorization to publish.

Photographing of Archival Materials: Archives and Special Collections allows patrons to bring in and use personal cameras (regular or digital) under the following conditions. Please consult the Camera Use Policy for detailed information prior to your visit.

Request Process: Archives and Special Collections offers publication permissions as well as high resolution digital reproductions of material. If interested in seeking permission to publish and/or a digital reproduction, please complete the Request Form. After the form is submitted, you will be contacted through email regarding use policies and fees. You must agree through email to both policies and fees before receiving your order. Detailed use and fee policies information can be found below. The request process for items destined for publication differs from requests for personal or research use.

Publishing: If you are publishing the item(s) requested (i.e. book, journal, public display, etc.), a formal agreement must be completed and payment received prior to content delivery. Following agreement to policies and fees, you will be contacted by an Archivist to complete additional permission to publish contracts. Once you have signed the contract and paid any permissions fees, the requested content will be prepared and provided to you. NOTE: Orders may take up to two weeks for processing before delivery.

Research & Personal Use: If you are not publishing the items requested, then permissions fees and a formal use agreement is not usually required. Following agreement to use policies and fees, the requested content will be prepared and delivered. Typical turnaround time for processing is one business week.

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