Declassification & Review

Collections, folders, and individual items can be closed to research for several reasons. Researchers have various options for requesting the review and potential opening of closed materials, depending on the reason for the closure.

Closed pending processing

What does this mean?

Collections are listed as ‘closed pending processing’ when archivists have not yet prepared the materials for research use. This work includes everything from preservation and physical arrangement of the original items to declassification, description, and the creation of a finding aid.

What can researchers do?

Archivists open several textual and AV collections for research each year. Contact us to learn whether we’re working on a collection that interests you.

Classified (removal required by national security classification)

What does this mean?

Individual documents and other materials can be withdrawn from an open collection or redacted if they contain national security information as defined by Executive Order 13526.

What can researchers do?

Declassification is an important part of ensuring access to records, and it’s often driven by researchers. We encourage you to submit a Mandatory Review Request form for each document you’re interested in. The information you’ll need to fill out this form can be found on the “Withdrawal Sheet” that replaces withdrawn documents in a folder. Send the completed form to:

Email: Kennedy.Declassification@nara.gov

Mail: Mandatory Review Requests, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Columbia Point, Boston, MA 02125

*Please note that the majority of the JFK Library’s holdings are not subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. To learn more about the declassification process, see the Archives blog post, Demystifying Declassification.

Deed-Closed (removal according to provision of a deed of gift or deposit agreement)

What does this mean?

Materials are described as “deed-closed” if the donor who donated them to the Library stipulated that some information (medical details or personal letters, for example) must remain closed for a specific period of time.

What can researchers do?

Deed closures are governed by the legal documents (deeds of gift or deposit agreements) that transferred the materials to the Library. Researchers can ask an archivist to review a deed/agreement to determine if specific materials can be opened under its terms. We encourage researchers to fill out a Donor Appeal form to request this review, and send it to:

Email: Kennedy.Library@nara.gov

Mail: Research Room, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Columbia Point, Boston MA, 02125

Privacy-Closed (removal according to National Archives criteria)

What does this mean?

Individual items can be withdrawn or redacted due to our obligation to protect sensitive or private information. Privacy-closed materials often include information that: relates to investigations of individuals; could cause an unwarranted invasion of privacy (particularly financial details or social security numbers); or libels a living person.

What can researchers do?

Researchers can appeal these types of closures by using the same Donor Appeal form and contact information listed in the “Deed-Closed” section above.

Closed Pending Review/“Screen on Demand”

What does this mean?

Collections, folders, and oral history interviews listed as “closed pending review” are often subject to “screen on demand,” a process archivists use to review requested materials that have been organized and described, but not yet screened for privacy closures. This is especially common for collections of constituent mail, as private citizens often included personal information in letters to government officials.

What can researchers do?

Contact the Research Room (Kennedy.Library@nara.gov) if an item you’re interested in is described as “Closed Pending Review,” and we may be able to review and open the materials for you.

Permission Required

What does this mean?

In rare cases, the donor’s deed of gift stipulates that a collection, part of a collection, or oral history interview may be examined only with the written permission of the donor or their legal representative.

What can researchers do?

Because donor restrictions can vary widely, it’s best to contact the Research Room (Kennedy.Library@nara.gov) for more information about accessing materials that require permission. While the Library cannot act as an intermediary to obtain permission, we will provide either a Papers Permission Request form or Oral History Permission Request form and guide researchers through the process.