The General Service Office Archives is a repository for official and unofficial records that document A.A.’s history in the U.S. and Canada. These include personal collections, manuscripts, correspondence, publications, photographs and memorabilia related to the origin and development of the A.A. Fellowship. It is the obligation of the GSO Archives to care for these records permanently and to provide proper facilities and procedures to ensure their preservation.
The GSO Archives collects materials in any format that have long-term value documenting the work of Alcoholics Anonymous. The Archives’ acquisition priorities include, but are not limited to:
- Publications released by A.A.W.S., including books, directories, annual reports, Conference reports, surveys, booklets, pamphlets, magazines, newsletters, service pieces, public service announcements, press releases and other media relations materials, and more;
- The Grapevine magazine, and other materials produced by The A.A. Grapevine, Inc.
- Materials published outside A.A.W.S. that describe the program of A.A., the problem of alcoholism generally, or that otherwise have significance to the organization, such as books, articles, speeches, reviews, television and media programming, and more.
- Audiovisual collections including: photographs, videos, and sound recordings
significant to A.A.; recordings of General Service Conferences, International Conventions, and World Service Meetings as well as other significant events; speeches and talks by early A.A. pioneers, A.A.W.S. trustees and directors, and other individuals; and more;
- Minutes and other documentation of the A.A.W.S. Board, General Service Board, committee meetings, Conferences and Conventions;
- Workpapers, subject files, correspondence, reports, financial information, and speeches of General Service Office Staff and General Managers;
- Personal papers of A.A.W.S. trustees, directors, and other significant figures, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, including early A.A. pioneers – these may include correspondence, journals, diaries, scrapbooks, photographs, manuscripts, speeches, obituaries, awards and artifacts;
- Oral histories and stories of figures significant to the national and international operations of A.A.
- Group and area histories, and selected reports and newsletters of groups and areas.
Acceptance of Donated Materials
The GSO Archives is happy to accept donations of archival materials that fit the above collection scope. Anyone wishing to donate items of archival value should contact the GSO Archivist to discuss the donation and determine the items’ suitability for donation to the GSO Archives.
Any collection we accept commits us to the task of organizing and preserving it, which involves hand labor and costs for archival supplies. Donations that require expensive conservation, special housing, intensive processing, or other excessive demands on the Archives’ resources may not be accepted.
The donor will be asked to sign a Deed of Gift, transferring his or her property over to the GSO Archives. We prefer that title to the property be transferred without restriction, but we are willing to work with donors who specify certain restrictions as a condition of the gift. If appropriate the donor may also be asked to sign an Assignment of Copyright form.
The GSO Archives does not do monetary appraisals for donors and will not comment on the financial value of any material. If a monetary appraisal is necessary, it is recommended that such appraisals be done by a disinterested third party before title to the material is conveyed to the GSO Archives.
The GSO Archives generally does not purchase archival records, books, or artifacts. The GSO Archives generally does not accept items on loan.
The Archives of the General Service Office generally does not seek to acquire collections with a focus on local groups, districts, or areas. Many local A.A. groups, districts, intergroups/central offices, and areas have vibrant archives collections of their own, and these kinds of materials may be more significant to archives in those areas. However, we do accept area histories and certain other materials produced at the local level.
Similarly, the GSO Archives generally does not seek to acquire collections developed outside the U.S. and Canada, though we do welcome summary histories of A.A.’s growth in other countries.
In cases where the collection would be a better fit in a different archives collection, the GSO Archives will work with the donor to place it in the appropriate repository.
The GSO Archives also generally does not collect the following types of documents:
- Drafts, raw statistical data, or incomplete documents
- Three-dimensional artifacts such as framed artwork, T-shirts, mugs, jewelry, etc.
- Multiple copies of any one item
Retention and Deaccession
In most cases, a maximum of three copies of any item will be retained.
The Archives may decide to digitize, microfilm, or otherwise reformat donated collections for preservation purposes. In these cases, the original material may be kept by the Archives, sent to off-site storage, or removed from the collection.
Usually, donated archival materials are considered extremely important and are intended to be kept permanently. However, no individual or institution can predict or govern the changing attitudes of future generations, nor guarantee permanency beyond the best available preservation procedures.
The Archives reserves the right to reevaluate historical material and to carefully and judiciously deaccession and dispose of certain items from its collection in a manner consistent with professionally accepted standards. The Archives may decide to deaccession an item if any of the following conditions are present:
- The item is not relevant to Alcoholics Anonymous or to the Archives’ mission and purpose;
- The item would be more appropriately housed in a different archival repository;
- The item has deteriorated beyond usefulness;
- The item is made of hazardous materials or is actively decomposing in a manner that directly affects the condition of other items and/or the health and safety of the GSO’s staff and/or visitors;
- The Archives is unable to continue to provide care and storage for the object in keeping with professionally accepted standards;
- The item’s care and storage are far more expensive than the value of the object as it relates to the Archives mission and purpose;
- The item may be replaced with a similar object of greater significance, quality, and better condition;
- The item is subject to legal and ethical standards requiring its removal.
Complete records will be maintained on all deaccessioned items and their subsequent disposition. A deaccessioned item may be disposed of in one of the following methods (in order of desirability):
- Transfer to another more appropriate Alcoholics Anonymous archives repository, at the level of the region, intergroup/central office, area, district, or group;
- Donation to an appropriate non-A.A. archives or scholarly institution;
- Return to the original donor;
- Destruction of the item.