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Digital Camera Usage in the Reading Room

We welcome researchers to use personal digital cameras, including cell phones and tablets, while researching in the Special Collections reading rooms. Physical condition, copyright concerns, donor restrictions, and other factors may limit or prohibit photography. Please see the access and use note of a collection’s finding aid or Ask Us! for more information on specific restrictions. For the majority of collections, there is no limit on the number of photographs a researcher may take of a collection or item while in the reading room. Any images you take are for personal research use only and may be subject to copyright law. Please visit our Copyright page for more information. 

All researchers are asked to agree to this digital camera use policy when registering as a researcher in the Special Collections Reading Room.


The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or other reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or other reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse the use of a digital camera if, in its judgment, such use would involve a violation of copyright law. Further, the user agrees to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless the Princeton University Library, and the Trustees of Princeton University against all claims, demands, costs and expenses incurred by copyright infringement or any other legal or regulatory cause of action arising from the use of the Library’s facilities or materials.


Researchers interested in taking photos should note the following guidelines:

  • You may use a camera, cell phone, tablet or other device that can take a picture. Please leave any camera cases in your locker. If there is a camera restriction on a collection, you may be asked to return your camera, and any other device that can take a picture, including cell phones and tablets, to your locker outside of the reading room.
  • All photography will be conducted using ambient lighting. No tripods, flash, or copy stands may be used. Audible features on the camera must be turned off. We also do not allow the use of personal scanners.
  • For the longevity of the collection materials, we ask that you handle them properly and with care.
      • All materials must be kept on the table.
      • Bound volumes must be supported by a book cradle, unless otherwise instructed. No pressure beyond book weights, snakes, or other items provided by the Department may be applied to the bindings, text block, or any other materials.
      • Loose manuscript materials must remain in their folder and kept in order at all times. Fastened items may require special handling; please check with staff before proceeding.
      • Photographs and documents should remain in plastic sleeves. Please do not open sleeves or remove items from them. A staff member is available to assist you. 
  • Researchers are welcome to take photographs at their assigned desks. We ask that you not stand on chairs, desks, or other equipment, hold items like foam or other equipment above the materials, or rearrange furniture to obtain a better image.
  • Because these photographs are intended for personal research use only, please be aware that you may not be able to get publication quality images in the reading room. You may speak to a staff member about ordering digital images suitable for publication.
  • It may be the case that materials not owned by Princeton, but obtained through Interlibrary Loan or as a Shared Collection through ReCAP, may be subject to other limitations placed on the materials by the holding institution. You may need to receive permission to photograph these materials ahead of your visit to the reading room. 
  • It is the researcher’s responsibility to keep track of the location of the materials in the collections and provide citations where appropriate.
  • No pictures may be taken of the room, staff, or other researchers.

If you have any questions, please feel free to complete the Ask Us! form.