Scroll down for answers to frequently asked questions on topics related to the University Archives and Records Management Program.
What are considered records of the University of Michigan?
Standard Practice Guide 601.08 defines university records as “all records, regardless of their form, prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by administrators, faculty acting in an administrative capacity, and staff of university units in the performance of an official function.”
Records are defined by content rather than by format and thus include those that are paper, analog, electronic or any other format from which information can be retrieved. Records include, but are not limited to, official University publications (including web pages), fiscal data, correspondence (including email), minutes of meetings, reports, academic records, and employee files.
Active records are those that are frequently referred to or that are needed to support the current business activity of a unit.
Inactive records are records that have not been needed for at least one year or for which the active period has passed. Inactive records should be securely stored until the end of the designated retention period. Unless these records have been defined as permanent records, they should be destroyed after the designated retention period has elapsed.
Permanent records (or archival records) are those which have enduring historical, administrative, or research value to the University and which the Bentley Historical Library retains, preserves, and provides access to in perpetuity.
What are best practices for managing records?
Following the creation or receipt of records, general recommendations on maintenance and disposition are provided in the Records Policy and Procedures Manual. Records Management Program archivists are also available for one-on-one consultations.
Do you provide storage space for records that we are not ready to transfer but still need to keep?
We do not provide for storage for active records. Several university units do make use of storage facilities both on and off campus, including commercial storage facilities. For any unit considering obtaining additional storage space for records, University Archives staff recommend careful consideration of the need and cost. Archives staff can provide on-site appraisals and consult in vendor evaluation.
What is appraisal?
Appraisal is the process by which university archivists determine the value of University records that are no longer needed for current business needs. During the appraisal, archivists may identify records of archival value – that is, records that should be transferred to the archives. They may also identify records which may be disposed.
What do archivists need to know during an appraisal?
Archivists need the following information to conduct an effective appraisal:
Context about the administrative roles performed by the office as well as the evolution of the office and its functions over time;
Background about the records, their purpose, and why they were created or collected;
Locations where the records are stored i.e. web pages, cloud storage, databases, filing cabinets, off-site storage, physical media;
Formats the information may be found in i.e. electronic database, scanned versions, paper, photographic, audio-visual.
What is a retention and disposition schedule?
A retention and disposition schedule defines the period of time that each record type should be retained by units. It allows units to dispose of records in a timely, systematic manner and to identify those records that have historic value and should be transferred to the University Archives.
Can I just scan all the records in my office and keep them electronically?
If you need to save space, we suggest spending the time you would have devoted to scanning on organizing and reviewing your records to identify those records can be discarded or transferred to the University Archives. While the Bentley Historical Library cannot provide help with digitization at this time, the Records Management Program can consult with you regarding imaging standards, file formats, and digital preservation.
What happens to records once they arrive at the archives?
Once your records have been transferred to the University Archives, archivists will formally accession of the records into the University Archives. An accession record will include transfer documentation and disclosure of any known sensitivities or applicable restrictions. You will receive a receipt of transfer upon completion of the accession.
Records then enter into the queue for processing. Processing includes the appraisal of the content and the elimination of duplicate and routine transactional material that does not warrant the costs of long-term retention. If needed, the records may be rehoused for better storage. Digital files undergo automated analysis, including viral scans, and review for protected personal information. Given the large volume of university records, the material is not reviewed at the item level.
The final step in archival processing includes the preparation of a descriptive finding aid. The finding aid provides a historical overview of the transferring unit and a description of the records summarizing the content, date spans, and how they are organized. A contents list is prepared enumerating folder titles within each box. The records are then available for research under applicable access policies.
I may need information from the records at the archives. How should I proceed?
You have several choices depending on the nature of your need.
If your needs are complex and require extensive research, a visit to the Bentley Historical Library may be appropriate. For example, preparation for a significant anniversary often requires at least a few visits in order to understand the depth and breadth of resources available to you. Reference research requests can be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your needs are relatively specific, you can submit an administrative request to the University Archives. An archivist can find the needed documents. Requests can be submitted to UMrecords@umich.edu.
Another option is to request a loan depending on the volume of material. 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 specifically designated representatives. If a loan is agreed upon, Bentley staff will retrieve the relevant files and prepare a loan form, which documents the transaction. To request a loan, contact an archivist at UMrecords@umich.edu.