Transferring Office Records to the University Archives

The University Archives is Duke's official archival agency and is a department of Perkins Library. Our job is to identify, acquire and preserve official university records that have enduring value for the Duke community and to make them available in accordance with the policies of the Board of Trustees, administration and faculty. Access to official records is regulated to safeguard confidentiality and privacy. Our staff will be happy to assist you in managing your office's non-current files.

Types of Records to Transfer

What records do rarely look at but could not do without? Records are sent to an archive because they are of long-term value but are not needed for day-to-day administration.

As a rule, send the University Archives the significant and unique records that were generated or received by your office. Records are usually significant and have enduring value if:

  • they document policy development and precedents, major projects or university rights and responsibilities
  • their subject matter caused considerable comment on campus or in the media
  • they involved litigation or large sums of money
  • they have been vital to the operation of your office

A general guideline is to ask what material would be of use to a person writing a report on your office or a history of your department. Consider the potential uses of archived records. For instance, grant proposals often require historical narratives and statistics.

Materials that are appropriate for archival status include:

  • correspondence and subject files of the dean, director or chair
  • publications, such as newsletters and annual reports
  • records of programs or curriculum development
  • departmental minutes, committee minutes and committee reports.
  • self-studies, histories and accreditation reports
  • records about symposia and special projects
  • records about cooperative efforts with other institutions
  • records about relationships with government, business or industry
  • photographs (particularly if subjects are identified)

Materials that are inappropriate for archival status include:

  • transactional records, such as leave requests and purchase orders
  • reprints
  • bulky artifacts
  • more than two copies of reports and publications
  • routine correspondence (for example, requests for course information and acknowledgments)
  • copies of the announcements, directives and so forth that are distributed throughout the university

Through its Records Management Program, the University Archives is developing schedules for offices to follow when they need to dispose of records. Those schedules will provide additional information about the types of records to transfer to the Archives or to discard. Visit Records Retention Guidelines to view current records retention schedules.

Special cases

  • Faculty papers: The Archives is interested in acquiring records of an official nature. These represent work of faculty or staff committees or document activities such as faculty-student interaction or town-gown relations. Due to federal privacy laws governing student records, the Archives does not keep grade books, marked papers or material that might be considered part of a student's academic record.
  • Personnel records: Contact the personnel division for information on the disposition of personnel records.
  • Student records: Grade reports, advisors' files and other student-identifiable materials may be considered education records subject to federal law. These should be handled according to the procedures specified in the University Policy Manual.

Transfer Procedure

1. Use the right boxes

Please use the boxes we provide. We have to make efficient use of limited space, and our facilities are set up to house these containers. Boxes are free of charge for records being sent to the Archives, and you can pick them up at the Archives on weekdays. We cannot accept records sent in boxes other than the ones we provide or accept records that we have not approved for transfer.

  • For letter-size files, 2 file drawers will require 3 boxes.
  • For legal-size files, 1 file drawer will require 2 boxes.
  • For lateral files, 1 box will hold 1¼ feet of letter-size files or 1 foot of legal-size files.

Don'ts

  • Don't send us records in hanging files or loose-leaf binders. If records are in hanging files or binders, put them in manila folders. Please do not send us loose, unfoldered paper.
  • Don't use rubber bands on folders, as they leave stains as they decay.
  • Don't overstuff your boxes.

2. Keep records in order

If you are sending records of distinct offices, committees or organizations, please do not intermix them. Keep the records in the order in which they were used in your office.

3. Make a list

Make a list of the folder titles, with their dates. When you need to find something, this list will be invaluable. Think of folder title lists as an index to your office's records. In the coming years, more records will be stored in our off-site repository. Accurate folder lists will become essential for retrieving the files you need. Include the name of your office on the sheet and the span of years represented by the files.

4. Deliver your boxes

Attach a sheet of your letterhead to the box cover, with the date and name of a contact person, and label it "To University Archives." (Please don't write on your boxes. We will add a permanent label later.)

Deliver boxes to the loading dock at the rear of Perkins Library. The driveway beyond the Tel-Com building leads there. Please call beforehand, and if possible, someone will meet you. Staff in offices on the main quad of West Campus may find it easier to bring records in through the front of Perkins Library. We can provide you with a hand truck. 

5. Track your records

When we've logged the records in, we'll send you a receipt. Please keep this for future reference. The accession number on it is what we use to keep track of your office's records.