Answers to common questions
Q. WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN A COLLECTION IS DESIGNATED AS "OPEN," "OPEN IN PART," "PERMISSION REQUIRED," OR "CLOSED"?
A. Terms of access to collections may vary depending upon various factors (see our policy on access restrictions). Definitions of those terms are provided below:
- Collections listed as "open": may be examined without restriction. Although individual documents may be withheld (such withdrawals can be appealed), the collections themselves are open to all researchers.
- Collections listed as "open in part": contain portions that are currently unavailable for research. The open parts may be examined without restriction. Portions may be closed for any number of reasons (see policy on access restrictions), including if they have not been sufficiently processed.
- Collections listed as "permission required": may be examined only with the written permission of the donor or the donor's legal representative. Guidelines for securing written permission are as follows:
- Complete one of the following forms: Papers Permission Request Form (for access to an individual's personal papers) or Oral History Permission Request Form (for access to an individual's oral history).
- Sign and date the form and mail it to the donor with a cover letter explaining the nature of your research. You may find a donor's mailing address by consulting biographical sources such as Who's Who in America. In some cases, Library Reference staff may be able to furnish you with contact information.
- The donor then determines whether access will be granted, and under what conditions, and returns the original, signed form directly to the Kennedy Library.
- The Kennedy Library cannot accept permission forms from anyone other than the donor or the donor's legal representative; the Library also cannot act as an agent or intermediary to obtain permission.
- The Library does not accept faxed or photocopied forms or forms that are mailed or hand-delivered by researchers.
- You will be able to access the collection once you co-sign the permission form indicating that you accept the terms the donor has specified.
- Collections listed as "closed": are unavailable for research. Collections may be closed for various reasons (see policy on access restrictions), including if they have not been sufficiently processed. Please consult Reference staff for more information on specific reasons for closure, or for updates on the status of closed collections.
For more information, please contact Kennedy.Library@nara.gov or 617.514.1629.
Q: WHAT IS A MANDATORY REVIEW REQUEST AND HOW DO I SUBMIT ONE?
A. Some of our materials are closed due to national security classification directives. You may request that withdrawn Presidential documents be re-reviewed for potential opening through the mandatory declassification review provisions of Executive Order 13526.
To make a Mandatory Review request:
- Complete sections I, II, and III of NA Form 14020 (pdf); copy the information from the Document Withdrawal Sheet into sections II and III.
- Complete the form online and email it to Kennedy.Declassification@nara.gov; or print and complete the form offline and mail it to the following address: Mandatory Review Requests, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Columbia Point, Boston, MA 02125
To learn more about the document declassification process, see our blog posting "Demystifying Declassification". For more information please contact Kennedy.Library@nara.gov or 617.514.1629.