The Minnesota Historical Society, which is not connected in any way with this website, is a 501 (c) (3) which receives a great deal of its funding from the State of Minnesota. The Historical Society is given a number of tasks by the state and its staff members are considered to be employees of the state for various purposes. Unlike the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society is not subject to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, a model state law that requires that most government records shall be public.
Historical records of the Minnesota Historical Society’s activities are found in the State Archives collection and are accesible in the Minnesota Historical Society’s library. For current records that relate to the Historical Society’s activities not found in the State Archives, requests are governed by the Society’s Information Policy, which is available in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format below. This policy summarizes the Society’s position in relation to the release of information as follows:
The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational institution supported in part with public funds. As such it is not subject to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. This information policy is established to provide guidelines that enable and promote public access to information held by the Society while protecting the privacy of individuals and the interests of the Society. . . .
The policy has a number of provisions that may provide a basis to prevent the release of almost any information that the Historical Society may consider to be problematic for its activities or image:
The Society may deny or limit access to information if providing access would unreasonably harm the interests of the Society, whether because of the burdensomeness of the request, the practical difficulties of compliance, or the negative impact on ongoing operations of providing access to the requested information. . . .
Finally, it appears that the Historical Society reserves the right to change the policy when needed:
The Society reserves the right to amend or terminate this policy as it deems appropriate at any time in its sole discretion. . . .
To view the Adobe Acrobat file containing this policy, click here.
Click here to look at the Adobe Acrobat file.
Source: Enclosed with a letter of Shari L. Jerde of the firm of Dorsey & Whitney, LLP to Commissioner of Administration Dana B. Badgerow, on behalf of the Minnesota Historical Society, Feb. 24, 2006, copy in the files of the Department of Administration, Information Policy Analysis Division in relation to Opinion 006-09
Further updates to the policy will be posted here as they become available.
I’m curious: With the recent changes at MHS, does there seem to be any will over there to revisit this policy?
The Historical Society revised its information policy in 2007 and more recently in 2011. Someone with some spare time should take a look at the latest version and see if it is an improvement. Here’s a link to the pdf: http://www.mnhs.org/about/publications/Information-Policy-Adopted-Jan-17-2007_.pdf