Frequently Asked Questions

nota bene: these questions concern office administration of active records, transfer of records to the archives, and use of records once at the archives of the University of Michigan. For questions concerning the university's history, please refer instead to the Bentley Historical Library webpage for University of Michigan history.

Administration of Active Records

Transferring Administrative Records to the Archives

Records at the Archives

Administration of Active Records

What are considered records of the University of Michigan?

"University records" are defined as all records, regardless of their form, prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by administrators, faculty acting in administrative capacities, and staff of university units in the performance of an official function. For further information, see Section 2 of the University Archives and Records Program "Records Policy and Procedures Manual" and the Standard Practice Guide 601.8.

How should I organize my office's paper-based records?

General recommendations are provided in the Records Policy and Procedures Manual, section 8.1.

What is the best way to organize and preserve information in digital format?

General recommendations are provided in the Records Policy and Procedures Manual, section 5.1.

Can the archives staff help me find space for records not intended for the archives?

The University Archives staff is not responsible for finding alternative storage space for records not intended for the archives. Several university units do make use of storage facilities both on and off campus, including commercial storage facilities. For any office considering obtaining additional storage space, the University Archives staff recommends a careful consideration of the need. Issues to consider in obtaining additional storage space include need, cost, security, adequate temperature and humidity control, ease of access, risks of duplication of effort, and long-term intentions. Click here for further information on selecting off-site storage.

Units should consult both the Standard Practice Guide and contacts identified in authorizing units' webpages to determine their obligations over time to retain or destroy records not intended for the archives, including:

Transferring Administrative Records to the Archives

What records are appropriate to send to the archives?

See sections 4 and 5 of the Records Policy and Procedures Manual.

When should records be sent to the archives?

Records should be sent to the archives in annual accumulations, with transfers scheduled to occur at a point when the records are no longer actively used on a regular basis. The duration of active use varies from office to office. Offices typically retain active records from one to five years.

Transfers may also occur when an office is moving, when responsibilities change, when a chief administrator leaves, or when an accumulation of records exceeds the amount of space available. Digital records may require more frequent transfers.

Does the University Archives program participate in "Green Day" initiatives?

Yes. Representative of the Bentley Library's University Archives and Records Program (UARP) are available to take part in "Green Day" programs organized across campus, to help answer questions about what should be archived. Please feel free to call and ask for UARP staff assistance at 764-3482. Bentley staff are available for on-site advice and assistance in reviewing material for potential archival retention. Individual consultations may also be scheduled apart from a "Green Day."

Information on what should be archived, including the updated policy manual, is available on the UARP section of the Bentley website.

Recognizing that digital technology is an integral part of the university today, both complementing and supplanting traditional forms of documentation and communication, UARP maintains procedures for managing and preserving records in digital form on the Bentley website. Generally, historical records are considered to be those materials which are inactive and substantive in content. For a school or college, substantive records contain information which documents important activities, decision-making processes, and policies. Examples of this are:

Click here for more information in a handout form on "Recycle, Reuse, or Archive (?) University Archives and "Green Day" Initiatives

How should records be sent to the archives?

  1. Evaluate your records.
  2. Contact the UARP staff regarding the records you wish to transfer by either telephoning Nancy Bartlett or Brian Williams at 734.764.3482 or sending an e-mail message to them at or
  3. For paper-based records, printed materials, and audio-visual recordings, obtain archival boxes through UARP. Note: these boxes are supplied at no cost for records intended for transfer to the University Archives. They are not available to university units for other purposes.
  4. Pack, number, and list the content of the boxes according to the UARP instructions at 8.2 of the Records Policy and Procedure Manual and forms.
  5. Supply UARP with the contents list in hard copy and via e-mail, sent to
  6. Arrange with UARP for the transfer by either telephoning Nancy Bartlett or Brian Williams at 734.764.3482 or sending an e-mail message to them at and
  7. Wait for confirmation from the UARP staff that the records have been received.

Can't I just send records to the archives through campus mail?

It is not recommended. Records intended for transfer to the archives may be irreplaceable, too fragile, or too bulky to be sent through campus mail. An exception is the transfer of current printed materials for which the archives receives one copy by being on a campus mailing list.

Are there fees associated with transferring records to the archives?

For transfers exceeding ten archival boxes, the cost of shipping may be incumbent upon the transferring unit to assume. The University Archives staff provides onsite consultations, supplies of boxes, and subsequent processing and providing of reference services at no cost to university units, other than duplication fees.

How many copies of records should be sent to the archives?

Only one.

Records at the Archives

What happens to records once they arrive at the archives?

Once accepted, an accession form is completed by UARP staff. The accession form identifies the transferring office and other information necessary to track the records. Records then enter the queue for processing. (While awaiting processing, the records remain accessible to the transferring unit). During processing, the records are appraised and evaluated against existing holdings. Processing includes a review of the content and uniqueness of the material, and elimination of duplicative and routine transactional material that does not warrant the costs of long-term retention.

Given the large volume of university records, material is not reviewed at the item level. The arrangements of records strives to make use of the original order and filing scheme employed by the creating office. The final step includes the preparation of a descriptive finding aid. The finding aid provides an historical overview of the transferring unit and describes the records and how they are organized. A contents list is prepared enumerating folder titles within each box. The records are then available for research in accordance with applicable access policies.

Are records at the archives open to public inspection?

The vast majority of records at the archives, once processed, are open to public inspection. Categories of restricted records and procedures for petitioning access are described at Use of Restricted University Records at the Bentley Historical Library.

I may from time to time have need for information within the records at the archives. How should I proceed?

You have several choices depending on the nature of your need. One is to visit the Bentley Historical Library and conduct the search in person, with the assistance of the reference staff. This is the best option if your needs are complex and the need requires extensive research. For example, preparation for a major anniversary of a unit often requires at least a few visits to the Bentley Historical Library in order to make optimal use of the rich holdings.

Another option is to request a loan or photocopies from individual files. This option is most suitable when a need is very focused and when a relevant source is readily identifiable. Loans are only available to offices of origin and only through authorized representatives. If a loan is agreed upon, then the UARP office will retrieve the relevant files and prepare a loan form, which documents the transaction. The UARP staff does not have a courier service to borrowing offices. To request either a loan or photocopies, contact the UARP staff.

Last updated: June 16, 2008