Document Type


Publication Title

The American Archivist

Publication Date

Fall 2015


The Wisconsin School for Girls collection housed in the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) archives contains a variety of documents from the institution’s period of operation. Inmates who were admitted to the institution were predominately juvenile females at the time of the records’ creation; because of this, the contents of the records are protected by Wisconsin state statutes, which mandate restricted access for patrons as well as limitations on the use of the information contained within the records. This article examines how the restrictions on the collection continue to protect the privacy of the inmates and their descendants, what procedures WHS has in place to ensure continued trust in their custodianship, why a repository like WHS would value a collection with access restrictions, and who the primary patron group of this collection might be. Finally, this article argues that redacted digital representations of a limited number of the institution’s records (with an option for patrons to assume the cost of redaction and digitization of further records) and the use of an online user agreement form to access the collection are a viable means for WHS to digitize this collection and open it to researchers while still preserving public trust in its custodianship.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.