Collections, folders, and individual items can be closed to research for various reasons. Researchers have options for requesting the review and potential opening of closed and classified materials, depending on the reason for the closure.
There are several types of closed materials at the Kennedy Library:
Materials that have been withdrawn or redacted according to a provision in the legal document governing the donation, called the deed of gift or deposit agreement. The donor stipulated that some information (medical details or personal letters, for example) must remain closed for a specific period of time.
Materials that have been withdrawn or redacted due to the obligation of the National Archives to protect people's sensitive or private information. This often includes information that: relates to investigations of individuals; could cause an unwarranted invasion of privacy (particularly medical or financial details and social security numbers); or libels a living person.
Closed Pending Review/“Review on Demand”
Materials that will be reviewed upon a researcher's request. “Review on demand” is 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 large collections of constituent mail, as private citizens often included personal information in letters to government officials.
Closed Pending Processing
Collections that archivists have not yet prepared for research use. Processing work includes everything from preservation and physical arrangement of the original items to review, description, and the creation of a finding aid. Unprocessed collections are not open for research use.
How can researchers request access to closed material?
Closed items are clearly described and listed on withdrawal sheets that are filed in the folders from which the closed documents have been removed. Upon request the Kennedy Library will review any material that was last reviewed at least 2 years ago for the purpose of opening items that no longer require restrictions.
Entire folders that are closed are marked as [CLOSED] or [Closed pending review] in the finding aids.
To request a review of closed materials, please fill out the Deed Review Request Form on our website.
Alternatively, you can email us at: Kennedy.Library@nara.gov.
Or send us a letter at: Research Room, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Columbia Point, Boston, MA, 02125
How can researchers appeal a review decision?
You may appeal a decision made on a request initiated by you to the Board of Review at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. This panel is chaired by the Deputy Archivist of the United States. Your appeal letter should be addressed as follows:
Deputy Archivist (ND)
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
and forwarded to the John F. Kennedy Library c/o the Supervisory Archivist so we may attach document copies. An appeal should include your arguments for why the material should be released. The panel will respond to your request within 30 days. If your request is denied by the Board there is no further appeal procedure.
Individual documents and other materials are withdrawn from an open collection or redacted if they contain national security information as defined by Executive Order 13526.
How can researchers request access to classified material?
Declassification is an important part of ensuring access to records, and it's often driven by researchers. All classified material in the Library's holdings is now handled by the National Declassification Center. 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:
Or mail: National Declassification Center (NDC), National Archives and Records Administration, Room 6350, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001
*Please note that the majority of the Kennedy Library’s holdings are not subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Still Have Questions?
Contact us with any further questions about the declassification and review process.