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Preserving the Past - What to Keep

Ann Bowers
National Student Affairs Archives


When archives exist at an institution it is always best to check with the archivist to ascertain policies and institutional practices . In general the following documents and items are what comprise institutional archives:

  • Minutes and Agenda Documents (Executive, Business, General, Committee)
  • Constitutions/Bylaws/Articles of Incorporation
  • Committee Correspondence and Reports (includes Task Force and Ad Hoc Committees)
  • Division/Commission/Network/Region Minutes, Correspondence and Reports
  • Officer and Committee Rosters
  • Correspondence pertaining to policies and procedures including final policy or procedure
  • Conference proceedings, abstracts and programs and all summary reports
  • Membership Directories
  • Financial Reports-annual and for board meetings
  • Resolutions and Position Statements
  • Publications (Journals, Newsletters, Monographs, Pamphlets and Brochures)
  • Speeches/Conference Papers
  • Award Files including lists of awardees
  • Photographs and DVDs
  • Video and Audio Recordings

Types of Records Not Considered Archival-should be disposed after audit or no longer of administrative value

  • Financial documents such as bills, invoices, receipts, bank statements, check books
  • Conference registrations, individual evaluation forms, routine planning correspondence
  • Ballots
  • Membership applications
  • Routine memos and correspondence (paper or electronic format)
  • Documents from outside the association, unless directly related to project or publication

Personal archives include similar items:

  • Publications, including manuscripts and research files
  • Professional correspondence and personal correspondence if appropriate
  • Documentation on professional career
  • Curriculum materials
  • Awards and honors
  • Photographs
  • Video and Audio recordings

Future historians will appreciate finding personal records. If you are active in the profession consider establishing your own personal system. Make sure these treasures are known to your family and leave instructions as to where they should be sent. Arrangements can be made in advance by contacting the NSAA or appropriate archival repository (regional, state, institutional).

Consider the challenge of the day:

The amount of correspondence and records that are stored on our computers helps to conserve our environmental resources but this lack of a paper trail presents a challenge for archivists. Given that many journals and newsletters are provided solely in an online format, and much of our personal communication is exchanged via e-mail, future historians will thank you if you get in the habit of printing out copies of the items listed above.

Treat as if regular mail.  Maintain e-mails which pertain to policy and procedure development, document administrative functions and project development of the association.  These usually are or should be printed out and filed.  Delete routine administrative e-mails after one year or end of term of office.  Delete transient e-mails once administrative value ceases—this could be by the end of the day or the week or the month.  These same rules also apply to attachments.

Data Systems
Information maintained in data systems such as membership, conference registrations, financial documentation, etc., and used to generate reports do not have to kept once the reports are created, printed, and filed.  If the information is routinely updated, reports should be periodically generated to capture and preserve the information.

These formats are wonderful for purposes of access, but not for preservation.  If a disk of records which should be kept is received at the archives, printed copies are made and filed.  The disk is stored with the collection, but its usefulness will cease after about five to eight years.  DVDs and CDs have a longer shelf life, but again, the software and hardware required to access the information may not be available after five to ten years.

If possible, the archives should receive the original documents which are being electronically stored in another format.

This is a wonderful means of keeping all members aware of and involved in the business of the association.  Many times, however, outdated information is removed from the web without first ensuring that a printed copy is available either with the association’s office, officers, or its archives.  Web access and use policy should include procedures for proper archiving of documents as they are removed from the web.


Updated 4.20.07

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