Code of Ethics for Archivists

n. a summary of guidelines in the principal areas of professional conduct and acceptable behaviors for members of the archival profession approved by the Society of American Archivists


The Society of American Archivists (SAA) approved its first official code of ethics in 1980. The code was revised in 1992, when an ample commentary was added, then again in 2005, when the commentary was removed (Cox 2008). The most recent iterations were approved in January 2012 and August 2020. The first formal code of ethics for the archival profession, “The Archivist’s Code,” was developed by the National Archives for use in the National Archives Inservice Training Program and printed in the American Archivist in 1955 (Grover 1955, Horn 1989). Other codes exist, such as the code of ethics adopted by the International Council on Archives in 1996. All of these codes try with varying degrees of emphasis to establish guidelines for resolving conflicts which arise from duties owed to the different parties concerned with archives: records creators, donors, researchers, and the archivist’s institution (Dingwall 2004, Jimerson 2006).