SAA 2015: Session 206, Before It’s Lost in the Ether: Strategies for Collecting Current Undergraduate Records

In advance of the 2015 Annual Meeting, we invited SNAP members to contribute summaries of panels, roundtable and section meetings, forums, and pop-up sessions. Summaries represent the opinions of their individual authors; they are not necessarily endorsed by SNAP, members of the SNAP Steering Committee, or SAA.

Guest author: Anna Trammell, Archival Operations and Reference Specialist at the Archives Research Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Jessica Wagner of Baruch College, CUNY, was the first presenter in this session. She discussed a survey completed during her time at Adelphi University. At the time the survey began, no program was in place for collecting current student life materials except for yearbooks and newspapers. Adelphi archives staff wanted to know what could get students to use and donate to the archives.

They constructed an online survey using Survey Monkey that was distributed to both graduate and undergraduate students. Using a gift card as incentive, they received 470 student responses. Findings Wagner mentioned in the presentation included:

-Only 30% of respondents were aware that the Archives existed
(Wagner conceded that the Archives are located on the lower level of a dorm)

-86% had never used the archives’ online resources

-90% had never used the archives at all

-Most respondents saw graduate students and faculty as archives’ users, not undergraduates

Some questions in the survey focused on student donors. Highlights from those responses include:

-87% of respondents were not aware that the archives would want their materials and a large percentage said they would use student materials if they were available

-Student expressed concerns about privacy, particularly in relation to their personal materials

-40% of responding students felt that documenting dorm life should be a higher priority for the archives than documenting clubs and events

-When asked how the archives could make donation easier for students, respondents had a wide variety of suggestions including increased outreach and publicity, drop boxes in student housing, online submission forms, and prizes

Wagner concluded her presentation by summarizing the recommendations developed for the archives as a result of this survey. Mainly, the archives staff needs to make donating and visiting the archives simple for students. By becoming involved with orientation sessions and student leaders, it will be easier to reach a wider range of undergraduates.

The next presenter was Rachel Appel of Bryn Mawr College. Bryn Mawr had very little material documenting student life. On their own, Bryan Mawr students were beginning to create their own archives projects including “Black at BM” and an oral history collection with members of the LGBT community. As part of the Library of Congress Personal Digital Archiving Day (PDAD), Appel developed instructional sessions for students on digital preservation.

Appel began these sessions by helping students define digital preservation and its importance through discussing tech obsolescence and media degradation and inviting students to share their data loss horror stories. She then went on to discuss best practices for digital preservation focusing on file naming, metadata, storage issues, copyright, and privacy. Appel discusses web archives by showing older versions of the Bryn Mawr website using the Internet Archives’ Wayback Machine. She concludes these sessions with a “find the person in the personal digital archive” murder mystery game adapted from the Society of Georgia Archivists, Georgia Library Association, and ARMA Atlanta.

While Appel’s original aim with these sessions was to encourage the donation of student materials, she found it hard to directly connect the session to that goal. In order to help encourage student donations, she has since recruited the SGA President as an “ambassador archivist” to develop an Institutional Memory Toolkit.

The Lib Guide for Appel’s PDAD session can be found at

The final presenter was Norie Guthrie of Rice University who discussed Google Drive as a collection tool for undergraduates. Rice University has a residential college system. Entering students are randomly assigned to a “college” which has its own budget, officers, etc. Rice students are very devoted to and invested in these colleges.

In May of 2013, the Rice Archives started an email campaign to seniors asking for donations. The outgoing president of one of the Rice Colleges, Wiess, contacted the archives about donating “the Wiess Vault.” These materials were stored in a series of Google Drive folders. The partnership with Wiess encouraged the archives to reach out to other college presidents. Currently, the archives has obtained material from three colleges through Google Drive.

The files are organized within a master folder shared with the President or Vice President. That person creates folders within the master. The archivist then downloads the files, saves them to the library server, and organizes them under the president’s name. Then the files are weeded, converted to PDF, printed and added to the record group. Weeded files are saved for two years.

Guthrie said that the initiative had allowed the Archives to collect new materials with minimal effort and without relying on the college historians. The main complications have been motivating new presidents and easing any fears they may have associated with donating their college’s materials. In the future, Guthrie plans to maintain and strengthen relationships with the colleges and to expand the workflow to include student groups.

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