The Theosophical Society in America Archives exists to identify, collect, preserve, interpret and disseminate materials and information pertaining to the history of the Society and to assist its membership and authorized researchers in understanding and appreciating this rich heritage and how it relates to their lives. This is an ongoing endeavor and is accomplished by collection of personal records, papers, slides, film, photographs, memorabilia, works of art and books from those persons wishing to donate them to this endeavor.
Theosophical Society in America
PO Box 270
Wheaton IL 60187-0270
630-668-1571 ext 353
The Theosophical Society in America Archives follows these guidelines in determining what materials to collect:
• The TSA Archives collects materials reflecting the depth and breadth of history of the TSA; its predecessors, subsidiaries, and associated organizations; its philosophies, activities, literature, events, and impact; its leaders; and principles of theosophy.
• Institutional records are the chief responsibility of the Archives. These include such items as reports, correspondence, minutes, budgets, grants, programs, brochures, catalogs, membership rosters, election documents, insurance inventories, construction records, and blueprints, in any format. Records of the President, National Secretary, National Treasurer, and Board of Directors are particularly important. Routine transactional materials such as invoices, payments, supply orders, and subscriptions are not collected except for samples that demonstrate departmental operations, or individual items that have special significance.
• Formats collected include papers; books, periodicals, pamphlets, and other published works; albums; works of art; photographic materials and films; audiovisual materials, both analog and digital; digital documents, emails, and screen shots of websites; and artifacts.
• Records of federations, branches, lodges, camps, and study centers are collected whenever possible, either in the form of original documents or reproductions. Closely associated organizations such as the Theosophical Order of Service, Young Theosophists, Esoteric Section, Theosophical Book Gift Institute, and Theosophical Book Association for the Blind are treated in the same way.
• Experiences of Society members reflecting the history of the theosophical movement are actively collected in the form of personal narratives, memoirs, and oral histories.
• External views of the Society are collected in the form of newspaper and magazine clippings; academic publications, dissertations, and theses; Internet blog postings and discussion group conversations; and quotations from published works.
• Independent organizations such as the Co-Masonic Order, the Liberal Catholic Church, and theosophical groups independent of the Adyar-based Theosophical Society are welcome to store their archival records in the TSA Archives on a contractual basis. Recognizing that special access arrangements may be necessary, storage and processing fees may be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
• Special collections include materials donated by individuals, families, or organizations, ranging from single items to large collections. These donations must relate to the theosophical movement; to theosophy; or to people whose work had a significant impact on the theosophical movement, such as writers, lecturers, leaders, and researchers.
• Books are retained by the Archives (1) if they have intrinsic value as objects owned or annotated by prominent theosophists, (2) if they require a physical environment or security not available in the Library, or (3) a deed of gift requires keeping them physically with other portions of a donated mixed-media collection. Collections of books from noted researchers such as Boris de Zirkoff, Mary K. Neff, and John Algeo are held in the Library's Rare Books Room rather than in the Archives. Otherwise, books and periodicals are generally separated to the Library for disposition, subject to restrictions in deeds of gift.
Access to the Archives
The Theosophical Society in America wants its archival materials to be used by members, academic researchers, and members of the general public. The Archivist is responsible to establish means of access to archival collections that meet the needs of these constituencies while meeting legal obligations, donor preferences, and the preservation needs of the collections.
Archival collections are stored in closed stacks in controlled environments, and are not open to browsing except under very special circumstances. Researchers must use archival collections during normal weekday working hours unless special arrangements are made with the staff. Researchers are expected to:
• Notify the Archivist in advance of a planned visit so that requested materials can be delivered to the reading room
• Identify themselves and their research topics
• Read our Policies for Use of Materials [link] flyer
• Sign a Researcher Registration form
• Treat materials with respect and care
• Refrain from eating and drinking around archival materials
• Refrain from using ink pens and highlighters around archival materials; pencils are permitted
• Refrain from creasing pages or applying sticky notes
• Wear gloves if requested
• Refrain from publishing replicas of archival documents without permission
• Comply with any other rules of the reading room
• Respect legal requirements of copyright, privacy, confidentiality, and restrictions established in deeds of gift
• Pay for photocopies and scans
• Acknowledge the source of archival information used in publications
The Archivist may substitute surrogates when the fragility of archival materials makes handling of the originals impractical. Certain restricted materials may legally have to have names redacted before use, such as medical records. Staff members and volunteers are expected to treat archival materials with respect and care.
When possible, non-digital archival materials will be scanned or converted to a digital format that permits broader dissemination over the Internet. Digital watermarks may be used on photographs, document, and images at the discretion of the Archivist.
Copyright, Privacy, and Confidentiality
The Theosophical Society in America respects laws regarding copyright, privacy, and confidentiality. Users of the Archives are instructed on the need to comply with all relevant laws. However, the Archives assumes no responsibility for abuse of literary or copyright restrictions by users of research materials. Some archival materials may be restricted for legal reasons such as an ongoing lawsuit. Names and other identifying information will have to be redacted in medical cases and some financial papers.
Fees may be charged for photocopies, scans, and research efforts, and also for use of reproductions in commercial publications. Fees are re-evaluated periodically and kept in a range that is considered reasonable for similar repositories.
• Photocopying: Letter or legal size photocopies cost $.25 each. Images can be printed on 11 x 17 pages for $.50 each. In some cases, long documents can be copied in a batch using our large photocopiers, at a lower cost per page. It may not be possible to photocopy fragile items. Photocopying of library materials such as books and periodicals is invoiced through the Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library at the rate of $12 for the first 15 pages.
• Scanning: Scans of photos or documents that are 9 x 12 or smaller cost $2 each. Larger items up to 11 x 17 cost $5 each. Scans can be provided in PDF, JPEG or TIFF format. In some cases, long letter size documents can be scanned as PDFs using large automated photocopiers, at a lower cost per page. It may not be possible to scan fragile items.
• Reproduction for publication: Digital images can be provided in JPEG or TIFF format. The author or editor should acknowledge the source with the phrase Courtesy of Theosophical Society in America Archives. No fee is charged for 1-5 images to be used in an academic publication, in exchange for a copy of that publication to be added to our national library. Otherwise, images will cost $30 each.
• Reproduction for commercial use: Digital images can be provided in JPEG or TIFF format. Images for advertising and other non-editorial uses such as book covers, posters and brochures will require a fee of $60 per image.
• Audiovisual materials: Providing CDs or DVDs of audiovisual materials is possible in some cases. Ask the Archivist to estimate the cost of reproduction and shipping.
• Research: Researchers who cannot come to our campus to work in person may request our Archivist to do the research work on their behalf. The charge will be $25 per hour after the first hour, plus any relevant fees for photocopying or scanning.
• Shipping: Shipping costs will be calculated on a case-by-case basis, and will be provided in advance.
• Digital cameras and personal scanners: Use of personal equipment such as a digital camera may be permitted in our reading room, but the researcher will be expected to make a monetary contribution in support of the Archives. Such images are for personal use only, and permission is still required to post images online or use them in publications.
• Fee waivers: Fees are usually waived for TSA members and affiliated organizations.
Archival materials are not routinely loaned to individuals or organizations, and are not available for inter-library loan. If an item is requested for use in a display or research project, the TSA Archivist and the President may decide jointly the conditions under which the loan could take place. The borrower must sign an agreement specifying the item needed, with details of transportation, security, term of loan, preservation measures, display format, handling, and wording of labels acknowledging the identity and ownership of the item. Copyright, privacy, confidentiality, and the terms of any deed of gift involved must be considered in drawing up the agreement.
Appraisals of Gifts
Donations of historical material to the Archives may be tax deductible. However, the Theosophical Society in America Archives cannot appraise donations for tax purposes. If an appraisal is needed, it should be performed by a disinterested third party, before title to the material is conveyed to the Archives. The Archivist can provide the donor a letter confirming that a donation was made and that the TSA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
• Preserve and Donate Collections: If you have correspondence, papers, photographs, audiovisual materials, and artifacts from activities in the Society, consider keeping those materials together as a collection, and eventually donating to the Archives. What no longer has value to you may fill in gaps in our historical record. Contact our Archivist for more ideas about preservation and before sending collections.
• Volunteer Onsite or Remotely: Volunteers are welcome to assist with a wide variety of tasks. People who live near Wheaton, Illinois can help with a one-time effort or an ongoing project. Those from farther away may be able to live on campus while working in the Archives, and some projects supporting the Archives Department can be performed offsite.
• Donate Money, Supplies, or Equipment: Monetary donations are received with great gratitude. Archival preservation requires special materials, and digitization have to be processed by outside vendors. Additionally, we can always use donations of photo print papers, and our most-needed piece of equipment is a planetary scanner, also called an orbital scanner, which can be used to photograph delicate materials and rare books from above.
• Theosophy Wiki: The librarians and archivists of the Theosophical Society in America have established a wiki encyclopedia called the Theosophy Wiki. Photos and other unique items from the archives are being added to this base of knowledge, and editors from around the world contribute articles on theosophy and all aspects of the theosophical movement. Please consider joining in this collaborative effort.
Browse the Wiki here.
• World War II Project: We are collecting stories and photographs about Theosophists in World War II, to show how they faced the realities of wartime, both on the home front and in combat. Please help us by sending copies of personal narratives, correspondence, photos, newspaper clippings or whatever you have. There are lots of great stories yet to be told, and we hope to compile a book about this aspect of our history.
• Support Friends of Theosophical Archives: The Friends of Theosophical Archives (FOTA) is a nonprofit organization based in England. It promotes knowledge of, and support for, the Theosophical archives around the world.