There are a huge variety of issues to be agreed upon before you undertake a history project, whether it be an advisory consultancy, a commissioned history, an exhibition or a collection of oral history material. It is essential that these agreements be formally recorded and historians should always insist on a contract which has been negotiated and agreed upon by both parties.

The type of information that can/should be covered in a contract includes:

  • How much the historian will be paid and when they will be paid
  • Timeline for completion
  • Access to archival/research material
  • Nomination of a client representative, project manager or steering committee who will be responsible for approving each stage of work upon completion
  • Whether oral histories will be undertaken
  • Who is responsible for selection of photographs and other illustrative material for publication
  • Responsibility for obtaining the necessary copyright permissions for quotations and illustrations
  • Responsibility for proof reading and editing the manuscript
  • Responsibility for preparation of an index
  • What form the manuscript will be submitted in (hard copy/electronic)
  • Responsibility for costs incurred during the research and writing of the manuscript, such as photocopying, transcription of oral histories, access to archival material, travel and accommodation, as well as publication costs, such as artwork and design
  • Whether alterations can be made to the final product without the permission of the historian
  • Who owns the copyright in the final publication
  • In what format the author will be credited for their work
  • Whether royalties are payable for the initial publication or reprints
  • Procedures for termination of the contract by either party
  • Adjudication or mediation procedures that may be invoked in the event of a dispute arising between the parties


PHA (Vic) and Professional Historians Australia have developed a template for an agreement between a Commissioning Agent and an Historian. It includes clauses under the following headings:

  • Description of Work
  • Time Frame
  • Fees and Other Expenses
  • Rights Granted
  • Obligations of Commissioning Agent
  • Obligations of the Historian
  • Project Steering Committee
  • Termination of Agreement
  • Dispute Resolution

The Template for the Memorandum of Agreement  is a model contract suitable for larger projects.  This template is available only to be used as a template to develop your own specifically-tailored contract. The extent of an appropriate contract varies to some degree with the scale of the project and the amount of work required from the historian.  A simple, one-page agreement may be suitable for a short project that involves only a week or two of research, while a project that may last 18 months or 2 years requires a formal legal document.  Acting on professional advice, PHA (NSW & ACT) has also developed a template for a straightforward short agreement suitable for small projects (see link below).