Records Management for Student Organizations: Storage & Access

How to manage your group's records, what to keep and to discard, and how to donate materials to the University Archives

Best Practices for Storage and Access

Storage Considerations

Once you have identified the records your organization wants to keep, the next step is to best preserve your records.

  • Keep them in a dry, cool place. Moisture, excessive heat, and light can damage paper and audiovisual records so if possible, avoid spaces with overhead pipes, near heaters, in direct sunlight, damp basements, etc.
  • Consider investing in archival storage boxes. You can look for brands like Gaylord and Hollinger.
  • Avoid using rubber bands, staples, paperclips, tape, etc., which can damage, tear or stain paper records. 
  • Maintain a clean storage area so that no dust or critters make their way into your records.
  • If your organization lacks a storage space or office, we encourage you to consider donating the records to the University Archives as an alternative to passing down the records from member to member to keep personally each year.
Digital Records

Digital records, like email, photographs, etc., have become a large component of organizations’ files. Much like their paper counterparts, there are steps you can take to preserve these records and make them accessible to future members.

  • Organize your electronic files just as you would your paper records. Keep similar records, such as meeting minutes, in their own folder and clearly labeled. 
  • Create a standardized way of naming your organization's files so that members can quickly locate and identify the records they are looking for.
  • Maintain an email account specific to your organization and archive emails and documents there. This email address can then be passed down to the new officers each year. Services like Gmail also provide cloud storage (Google Drive) that allow document sharing and editing among several users.
  • Store your electronic files in multiple places. For example, if you are utilizing cloud storage to maintain your organization's records, you should also store the same records on a hard drive or on multiple thumb drives. 
    • For digital records, keep in mind the 3-2-1 rule of digital preservation:
      • Make 3 copies
      • Have at least 2 of the copies on 2 different types of media
      • Keep 1 copy in a different location from where you live
  • Consider what formats you would like to store your records. Can those Word or Google Docs be converted into PDFs? For images and digital photos, .tiff is the best format (no compression); however, many graphics are created as .jpg and can be maintained in that format.


Websites & Social Media
  • If your organization has a website, those sites are routinely crawled and are part of the University Archives web archives. Other sites, for example those for some publications and student groups, have been identified and are also captured in our web crawls. If you are not sure whether or not your website is being saved or if you would like to add your organization's website to the University Archives web crawls, please contact us. You can also submit your organization’s website URL to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine for capture via their “Save Page Now” feature.  
  • Archiving social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram has always been imperfect: how do you capture dynamic content that is constantly changing and how do you navigate platforms that require users to log in to access any content? On our Web Archiving site, we offer a couple of tools for archiving social media. These tools can help you make your content fully accessible, while preserving the look and feel of the platform. Please keep in mind that, for the time being, this is a hands-on task as you have to manually archive the desired social media feeds directly as a logged-in user of the respective platforms
  • Label all files, paper and digital, with the full name and date of the topic documented within. For photographs and scrapbooks, this includes identifying as many of the people depicted as possible.
  • Create an inventory of the records your organization maintains. This will help you (and future versions of you) quickly identify and locate records of interest. This also helps future recordkeepers know which documents to keep and which documents can be safely discarded.
  • Document locations: keep a list of places, key locations and/or passwords necessary to access records: from closets and drawers to hard drives and online accounts.

About the images

Left - International students by the Van Am Memorial c1950s, by Manny Warman. Scan 0047, Historical Photograph Collection; center - The Come Back Club, a campus organization of disabled ex-service men studying under the auspices of the United States Veterans' Bureau. Scan 0955, 1922 Columbian; right - Students' Afro-American Society (SAS). Scan 5031, 1967 Columbian.

Dial D for Deadline, Varsity Show April 2003

University Archives

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