Statement of Purpose

The principal goal of the Emerson College Archives is to collect, preserve, describe, and make available to students, faculty, staff, and the general public physical and digital materials that record the operation of the College and the activities of faculty, students, alumni, and administrative staff.

In addition to collecting the institutional records of Emerson College, the Archives also acquires, preserves, and makes available primary source material that documents subjects related to the College’s core curriculum. This includes the American Comedy Archives, a subset of collections focusing on the professional activities of groundbreaking individuals who have written, produced, or performed comedy for radio, television, motion pictures, or live performance.

Collecting Scope

The Emerson College Archives collects records (paper, audiovisual, 3D, and digital), papers and manuscripts, publications, and other historical materials documenting the intellectual, cultural, administrative, and social life of Emerson College from the 19th century to the present. The Archives serves as the principal repository for the institutional records of the College. The Archives seeks to document faculty, student, and academic activities at the College as well as Emerson’s central administration, theaters, and affiliated organizations.

The Archives also collects historical materials created by individuals and groups outside of the Emerson College community.  These materials, which focus on such subjects as journalism, photography, film, and theatre, support the College’s core curriculum.  They include manuscripts, photographs, video, and film materials, oral histories, objects, and other materials. Within the special collections, Emerson College maintains the American Comedy Archives, which contains materials that explore the nature of comedy as an American art form from its inception to the present.

Emerson College Records

The Emerson College Archives collects records and publications created in the course of College business from ca. 1880 to the present that have permanent historical value in documenting programs, decisions, and individuals at Emerson.

These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Academic records
  • Administrative records
  • Annual Reports
  • Artifacts
  • Catalogs
  • Correspondence
  • Committee files
  • Films
  • Financial records and associated papers
  • Legal records
  • Memorabilia
  • Minutes
  • Operational records
  • Personnel records
  • Photographs
  • Printed material
  • Programmatic records
  • Publications (student and organizational)
  • Scrapbooks
  • Sound recordings
  • Student Handbooks
  • Yearbooks

Graduate Production Theses

The Emerson College Archives collects Graduate Thesis Production Projects, which are thesis alternates produced in various media formats (including digital and analog) in partial fulfillment of the master's degree requirements at Emerson College. The Archives has collected the non-print component of these projects since 1985. Beginning in 2015, the Archives now collects both the digital media component and digital production book for each thesis.

Faculty, Student, and Alumni Organization Records

The Emerson College Archives collects materials in any format that document faculty, student, and alumni organizations.

Personal and Professional Records

The Emerson College Archives collects the personal and professional papers and materials of selected faculty, alumni, and staff members that document a specific aspect or era in the Colleges' history and/or relates to the College’s curriculum.

Special Collections

The Emerson College Archives collects material that is not created in the course of Emerson business but which is related to the core curriculum of the College. This includes published books on the history of Emerson College as well as records and other materials collected or created by non-Emerson individuals and organizations that enhance our knowledge of Emerson College.

Collecting areas include, but are not limited to, the following

  • Comedy
  • Film
  • Journalism
  • Performing Arts
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Theater

American Comedy Archives

The Emerson College Archives selectively collects materials—such as artifacts, original cartoons, photographs, comedic writing and advertisements, audiovisual materials, and correspondence—related to American comedy in all its forms.  

The subjects of these materials include, but are not limited to:

  • The lives and work of comedians, writers, producers, directors, agents, etc. who have a notable national or regional reputation. 
  • The business of comedy, including producing, directing, and promoting performances.
  • The technical and artistic aspects of writing, drawing, performing, producing, and directing comedy. 
  • The cultural, economic, social, and political effects of comedy.

Gifts Policy

The Emerson College Archives is happy to accept donations that fall within its collecting scope. Any collection accepted commits us to the task of organizing and preserving it, which involves hand labor and costs for archival supplies. Donors are encouraged to include a monetary donation to fund the cost of processing and preserving their materials. In some cases the Archives may decline to accept a gift without a specified monetary donation or endowment.

Due to limited staffing, budget and space, all donations or gifts are subject to review by the Head of Archives and Special Collections and may be declined. Partial collections are discouraged, but may be reviewed at the discretion of the Archives.

When the Head of Archives agrees to accept a donation, the donor must first sign a deed of gift satisfactory in form and substance, specifying the materials to be donated and other terms and conditions of the gift. The donor and the College will negotiate the deed of gift and the Head of Archives may consult with or involve other offices of the College such as Institutional Advancement, Academic Affairs, or the Office of the General Counsel. The donor may specify special conditions, but the Archives may refuse any donation for which it deems the conditions of use overly restrictive or inconsistent with College’s policies, practices, or needs.

Donors may make arrangements to examine the material they have donated and can be given a copy of any inventories, finding aids, or other research materials produced by the Archives about the donated material.

Emerson College is a nonprofit organization and has been granted tax-exempt status by the IRS. Donations may qualify as tax-deductible. This, however, does not permit the archives to appraise gifts. Under IRS regulations, no library, archive, or museum can perform an appraisal. The donor is solely responsible for determining, for IRS purposes, the value of donated items.

Materials Not Collected

While the Archives is happy to acquire many different types of collections, there are some materials that will not be accepted, including:

  • Materials that are irreparably damaged or infested by insects or mold or otherwise contaminated.
  • Materials in which the donor's ownership is in question or disputed.
  • Duplicate materials.
  • Collections that do not fit within the collecting scope of the Archives.
  • Photocopies of materials donated to another repository.
  • Collections which the Archives is unable to adequately support in terms of preservation and access. 
  • Permanent loans. The Archives will not assume liability for materials not owned by Emerson College.

The Archives will not accept materials if there is a lack of suitable space, staffing, supplies, and/or equipment.  If the deficiency is expected to be temporary, the Archives will delay rather than reject the acquisition of the materials. During periods of severe deficiency in any of these areas, the Archives will give priority to new accessions of College records whenever possible.


Emerson College is a non-profit institution which complies with current U.S. Copyright Law.  The Archives encourages donors to assign copyright to Emerson College so that materials can be properly preserved and accessed.  In rare cases donors may wish to retain copyright for some or all of the materials donated, as custody of collections does not always indicate ownership of such rights.  The Archives is willing to work with these donors to develop a mutually beneficial agreement, which may include providing the College with a license to use and/or copy materials for various types of activities. Donors should also understand that donated materials may raise multiple copyright and licensing issues relating to the ownership and licensing of lyrics, music, broadcast rights, screenplay ownership and the like.

Guidelines Review

The Emerson College Archives Collecting Policy will be reviewed and evaluated periodically as needed to ensure that the mission of the Archives is being met.