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Archives at Bentley: Citing & Copyright

Learn more about archives and special collections, including how to find historic material at the Bentley Library. Also learn about primary source research and preservation.

Citing Archival Material

Finding concrete rules for how to cite archival material can be very difficult. Most of the major style manuals give some kind of assistance in creating a citation, but acknowledge that individual repositories may have additional suggestions. The purpose of any citation is to help other people find the information that you found, and this is no different for archives. Any citation you use for unpublished material should give as much context and location information as possible so that users can also locate the same resources.

Below is information on how we prefer you to cite materials from the Bentley Archives. If you feel that another citation would be better for your purposes, you are free to make changes. However, please ensure that all of the location and repository information remains in your citation, as this is how others will find the material within our collection.

Preferred Citation for Physical material from the Bentley University Archives:

FormatDescription, Date. Collection/Series/Box Number. Repository Name, Location. Date accessed.

ExampleBentley, Harry C. Letter to Maurice Lindsay, Jan. 1st, 1950. RG 03 Series 02, Box #44. Bentley University Archives, Waltham, MA. 23 June 2015. 

Preferred Citation for Online material from the Bentley University Archives:

Format: Description, Date. Unique Identifier. Repository Name, Location. Date accessed and Web Address.

Example: Students eating lunch on campus, ca. 1978. Photo #000139. Bentley University Archives, Waltham, MA. Accessed 05/01/2015 at

Citation Links

Copyright in the Archives

Copyright questions come up a lot in archives because we deal primarily with unpublished material and our collections often contain "orphan works" - items for which the copyright holder is unknown or cannot be contacted. While there are some general guidelines with regards to copyright, the use and reproduction of archival material must often be navigated on a case-by-case basis. Bentley Library staff members are happy to work with you to navigate more complex questions you have about specific uses and copyright issues. For now, here are some general rules to introduce you to how copyright works in the archives.

  • A photocopy or scan does not give you permission to publish! Archivists and librarians have some expanded rights thanks to Section 107 and 108 of U.S. copyright law. This is why we are often able to give you copies of photographs or documents from our collections for your own personal research use. However, no publishing permissions are associated with this service. You cannot use a document or photo without permission just because you received a copy of it.

  • Bentley might own an item, but not the copyright. There are several reasons for this. We may possess published items that are still copyright of their authors. We may have received items in a donation where the donor asked to retain copyright permissions. We make copyright information available in our finding aids as we are able, but we do encourage users who want to use archival material to speak with us about permissions on an individual basis. 

  • "Fair use" is fairly nebulous. When you use archival material, or when an archivist provides you with copies of archival material, you are allowed to use them for certain purposes. Most educational or non-profit uses - such as putting material in a class presentation - are considered "fair use' of copyrighted material. Some of our links below help contextualize fair use exceptions, but know that there are no hard and fast rules - so talk to your librarian!

Copyright Help at Bentley Library

If you are looking for more comprehensive information about copyright, fair use, and more - please see this LibGuide! We have lots of resources on campus to help you navigate complex copyright issues. 

Copyright Links