There are a huge variety of issues to be agreed upon before you undertake a history project, whether it is a commissioned history, an exhibition, or a collection of oral history material.


It is essential that any business agreement is formally recorded and it is highly recommended that historians and commissioning bodies enter into 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
  • Timeline for completion and progress reporting
  • Access to archival/research material
  • Nomination of a client representative, project manager or steering committee to be responsible for approving each stage of work as completed
  • Whether oral histories will be undertaken
  • Responsibility for the selection of and payment for photographs and other illustrative material
  • Responsibility for obtaining necessary copyright permissions for quotations and images
  • Responsibility for proofreading and editing the manuscript
  • Responsibility for preparation of an index
  • The form of the manuscript to be submitted (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
  • Responsibility for design and publication costs
  • Whether alterations can be made to the final product without the permission of the historian
  • Copyright ownership of the final publication
  • The format for crediting the author for their work
  • Payment of royalties 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

The Professional Historians Association (Vic & Tas) and Professional Historians Australia have developed a template for an agreement between a Commissioning Agent and a 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

This Template for the Memorandum of Agreement is a model contract suitable for larger projects. The template should only be used as a guide to developing a specifically-tailored contract.

It should be noted that the extent of an appropriate contract varies to some degree with the scale of the project and the amount of work required of the historian.

A simple, one-page agreement may be suitable for a short project involving only a week or two of research, while an 18-month or 2-year project usually requires a formal legal document.


Related Links