University Records FAQ

Information about the University Archives and what we collect.

The University Archives collects, manages, and provides access to permanent university records for research use. This includes the administrative records of the university, student groups, faculty, alumni, and affiliated organizations. Collecting and preserving university records documents our history and promotes transparency and accountability.
We collect records, not just old stuff.

We collect records, not just old stuff. Records are anything that documents the activities of the university and the people within it. Records can be in any format, from paper to pdf files, or physical objects to email. If it documents what you do, it is a record and we would like to preserve it. Here are some examples of records we collect:

.pdf of University Council meeting minutes
Albany Student Press issue from 2015
.pst containing email correspondence and calendar
Paper records from the Office of the President
Class of 1954 Hat
CDs of preprints from Office of Communication and Marketing

Since we are a publicly-funded university, we are subject to New York State public records laws, namely New York State Arts and Cultural Affairs Law Section 57.05. Specifically, SUNY has a Records Retention and Disposition Schedule which outlines how long we must keep different types of records before they may be thrown away or disposed of. Certain records must legally be preserved permanently.

The purpose having a plan for our records is to limit potential legal liability while at the same time ensuring that valuable records are kept to ensure openness and accountability.

Certain records must legally be preserved permanently.

You can read the whole document here. Overall, it requires that, "In order to preserve records of historical and archival value, certain categories of records are to be retained permanently." It goes on to outline which types of records meet this distinction.

Basically, any record that "...documents a significant subject, or major policy-making or program-development process" must be kept permanently.

We have a lot of records to manage and limited resources, so we have to limit what we accept to records that are unique and will not be preserved someplace else, and records that have significant research value. Old books are great, but they are not unique, and what you might think is important might not be what our future researchers value.
Researchers value large amounts of consistent records that show what you do on a day to day basis. Meeting minutes and email messages are great examples of this, they are easy to access and understand, and tell a lot about what you do. Think, what records best showcase my contributions to the university? We're betting you have better records than your job description or your office's publications.
Think, what records best showcase my contributions to the university?

We prefer to accept records in the native format in which they were created. Today that often means digital files on your computer, but you probably create paper records as well. You have a database or content management system that need to be preserved? No problem, just Contact Us and let us know.

Both paper and digital bits have advantages and disadvantages for storing records. The original format also documents how you do what you do. We don't want you print out your digital records anymore that we want you to scan your paper records.

It depends! Do they document what you do and how you do it? Most likely, the answer is sometimes.

Most email messages are not records. Listserv messages, campus news updates, and random solicitations are not records. You have a better idea of which email messages document your contributions and activities than anyone else.

We do not want all of your email. We're sure most of it is boring. We do want messages that document your contributions that are central to your office's or department's core mission. You should create a policy of what activities deserve to be preserved. We'll settle for a rough plan. Then you should create an email folder and place all the relevant sent and received messages in that folder. You should export a .pst file of only that folder and then transfer that folder to the archives.
We do not want all of your email. We're sure most of it is boring.

Absolutely! The university website is a very complex and ever-changing record. We have been preserving the entire university website for a couple years now. We crawl and store most of it weekly, and some of the most prominent pages are crawled daily for recent updates.

Even if you put some of you records online through the university website, it still may be more effective to transfer these records directly to the archives. The reason for this is that digital records like pdf files and Microsoft Office documents are easier to manage than our vast, sprawling web archive. Transferring records directly ensures that they are preserved in accordance with the SUNY Public Records Laws.

Part of our purpose is to help you manage and use your own non-current records. Any records that you transfer to us can be made available to you, just ask!
We make our collections available for anyone to use. What good is it to throw records on shelves or hard drives and keep them locked away? Records are available if you come to our reading room on the 3rd floor of the Science Library. When we can, we also make records available online.
What good is it to throw records on shelves or hard drives and keep them locked away?
No, we cannot provide access to material that contains personally identifiable information or may cause an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. All of this is governed by state and federal information laws and our access and use policies. Often times we close records that were not created for public use for a set period while we manage access concerns. In addition to closing material, researchers may be asked to sign an agreement that restricts use of the records. If you are concerned or nervous about transferring your records to the archives for this reason, please Contact Us. We have experience managing access concerns and we will ensure that you feel comfortable with the arrangements.
The records you transfer contribute to a world-class research collection that serves our faculty and students. We get researchers everyday who are interested in working with our collections. For many periods in the past, we simply don't have enough documentation to provide the answers we need. If we want our questions answered in the future, then we must preserve the present. The university spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire or subscribe to research collections. We are creating research collections for free.
Probably! If you are affiliated with the University and have records that document what you do and how you do it then, YES! In fact, you might be legally obligated to preserve your records, so we can help you with that. Since we are a public institution, some records have to be transferred or destroyed in accordance with the SUNY Records Retention Schedule.
We are creating research collections for free.

If you have records you would like to transfer, first please Contact Us. For paper records or digital files that were created on external media, like CDs, we will make arrangements to move the materials to our offices in the Science Library.

For digital records in basic file formats like .pdf, .docx, .doc, .xlsx, .jpg, .pst, etc., please contact the University Archivist to set up our internal digital transfer system. You will be provided a folder where you can place permanent records to ensure that they are preserved and meet state records laws.

If you have more complex digital systems like content management systems or databases, we can also work with you to make sure these are preserved so that you can continue to access them in the future.

Absolutely! We regularly teach classes on researching with primary sources and provide individual research assistance every day, just Contact Us with whatever you need.

Please feel free to contact the University Archivist, we're here to help.

Make a Reference Request

University Archivist
Gregory Wiedeman
Science Library 356
(518) 437-3936