The principle of providing equal access to archival resources is enshrined in various guidelines and codes of ethics for archival practices. The professional archivist has the responsibility to balance the conflicting interests of heirs, donors, collectors, researchers, and home institutions. An examination of the access problems associated with the restricted papers of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Sigmund Freud, and recently opened files on Ferdinand Marcos and Kurt Waldheim reveals the difficulties inherent in implementing such a deceptively simple principle. Several hypothetical situations are posed to demonstrate the practical difficulties of implementing the concept of equal access to open collections.

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