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Student Organization Records Toolkit (SORT) @ Pitt Archives: Your Group's Archives

This guide provides information to student organizations that are interested in maintaining their historical records or donating them to the University Archives.

Interfraternal Council, 1934

Heinz Chapel Choir, 1946

Quo Vadis, 1957

Storage

Once you have identified the records your organization wants to keep, the next step is determining how to maintain them. To best preserve your records, be sure to keep them in a dry, cool place. Moisture, excessive heat, and light can damage paper and audiovisual records.  Also, when possible, avoid using rubber bands, staples, paperclips, tape, etc., which can damage paper when not stored in an ideal environment. When possible, store the records on steel shelving or cabinets rather than wood, which emits a gas that, over time, can be harmful to your documents.

Luckily, several student groups have an office or storage space where they can keep their records; however, if your organization lacks such a space, then you should consider donating the records to the University Archives as an alternative to passing down the records from member to member each year.

Access

No matter where the records are stored, they should be kept together and arranged in a way that works best for your group. It is important to label all files 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.

It is also beneficial to create an inventory of the records your organization maintains so that you can quickly identify and locate records of interest. Also, should your group ever wish to donate its records to the University Archives, an inventory will provide a good outline of the collection.

Electronic Records

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

  • DO NOT store electronic records in your University email or Box account. These will be deactivated once you leave Pitt and the records will disappear. Instead, you can maintain an email account specific to your organization or position within the 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.
  • DO 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, CD, DVD or other portable media. However, portable media are relatively unstable and become obsolete rather quickly (remember floppy disks?) and so an external hard drive, which is relatively inexpensive, can offer a more stable storage sollution.
  • DO decide what formats you would like to store your records in and be consistent. For text files .txt is ideal, but if you need to maintain formatting within a text document then save the file as a PDF. For large images, like digital photos, .tiff is the best format; however, many graphics are created as .jpg and can be maintained in that format.
  • DO organize your electronic files just as you would your paper records. That means like items, such as meeting minutes, should be kept 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.