Permission and Licensing

Researchers seeking to cite or reproduce images of materials held at the Massachusetts Historical Society must request permission from the Society in writing. The reference librarian will review all requests to ensure there are no copyright restrictions on the materials and determine if any licensing fees apply (in the case of image permissions only). Once all of the details of a request have been confirmed, the reference librarian will issue a permission letter for the work in question, supplying recommended citations and indicating the appropriate credit line. If reproduction and license fees are assessed, an invoice will be issued from the finance department for remittance with payment by check, credit card, or bank transfer.

 Permission to Cite Manuscript Materials

Each request must include complete and detailed citations of the materials used, together with a full description of publication plans. Since the MHS cannot verify quotations, citation information alone is sufficient for manuscript permission requests. The citation for each document requested should include the author's name, the recipient's name (for letters), the date of composition, and the collection in which the document is located. Details for publication plans must include title, publisher, and the actual or planned date of publication. The Society cannot give permission to publish without this information.

Submitting Requests

Requests for permission to cite or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing, by email, fax, or mail. All requests should be addressed to:

Email: permissions@masshist.org
Fax: 617-859-0074

Mail: Reference Librarian
Massachusetts Historical Society
1154 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02215

Exceptions

There are several categories of materials for which the library cannot grant permission to publish. These include published works, copyrighted materials for which we do not hold the rights (or the rights-holder is unknown), and our own publications, which are handled through the publications department.

Published Works

The MHS does not grant permission to quote from published works including, but not limited to, books, broadsides, pamphlets and journals. When a work has been published, the intellectual copyright lies with the author until the copyright expires. 

Cornell University has made a useful chart available showing the Copyright Term and Public Domain in the United States as well as a checklist for fair use of published materials that may be helpful to you in determining whether or not any published materials you wish to reproduce are protected by copyright.

MHS Publications and Online Content 

Permission to cite and quote from MHS publications, including original online content, should be directed to our Publications Department.

Requests to cite the published editions or digital edition of the Adams Family Papers should be directed to the Adams Papers Editorial staff.

Licensing Images

It is necessary for researchers to obtain separate, written permission for the reproduction or publication of all material held in the MHS collections. Requests for images and payment of reproduction fees do not constitute or imply permission to reproduce documents or images. The licensing of images from MHS collections incurs use fees, including images ordered from the Bridgeman Art Library and Historic Map Works.

All licenses are for one use only. The MHS does not grant open-ended or multi-year licenses. Each instance of use must be separately requested in writing. All reproductions must credit the Massachusetts Historical Society as the source of the image.

Licensing Fees

Click here to view the current licensing fees assessed by the MHS for the reproduction of images materials held in our collections. Please review this information before contacting the MHS with your image request.

Please note that all licensing fees are assessed on a per-image basis and are independent of reproduction fees. For more information on the cost of purchasing high-resolution images, see High Resolution Images.

Submitting Requests

All licensing requests must be submitted in writing, by email, fax, or mail. All requests should be addressed to:

Email: permissions@masshist.org
Fax: 617-859-0074

Mail: Reference Librarian
Massachusetts Historical Society
1154 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02215

Please include a complete description of each item to be reproduced with all information requested for each image, together with a complete description of where, how, and when items will be reproduced. Be sure to indicate whether you have the photographic work you need for reproduction or are ordering digital scans at the same time that you are making your reproduction request.

If you have any questions concerning MHS permissions or licensing procedures, please contact the reference librarian before making your request at 617-646-0561 or via e-mail.


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