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Records management: RM vs. Archives

Records management at UW-Parkside: What do I keep? What do I toss? What goes to the archives?

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Records Management vs. Archives

Records management is the curation of records over their whole lifespan.

Records managers concern themselves with the process of creating records that can be stored and accessed as state and federal law or institutional practice requires. They follow the custodianship of records that are created and used in departments or offices, and the fate of the records, whether that be deletion, destruction, or permanent retention. Records managers write policies about individual records series, such as the correspondence of the chancellor or the visitor log of the art gallery. These policies reflect administrative or legal purposes. While the records may contain historically interesting material, the first purposes of records management is to support the function of the institution.

Archives are the permanently maintained records of an institution, person, or function and are often the result of records management--only a fraction of the records created, most of which have no permanent value. Archival material may also be obtained through donations, discovery, or purchase.

An archivist makes archives accessible by arranging, describing, preserving and housing collections, making online and in-house means available to access records, and publicizes the archives' holdings and functions to bring users to the materials.

Archive programs often contain manuscript collections, which are records in any form deemed interesting or historically valuable. The archivist makes the decision as to what is useful based on the institution's collection policy, which is a set of principles that determine what subjects, spans of time, etc. will be collected or kept to the exclusion of others. These policies often correspond to an institution's mission, geographical location, or clientele.

The UW-Parkside Archives and Area Research Center is the records manager for the university, it houses the university archives as well as local public records and manuscript collections owned by the Wisconsin Historical Society. It owns a some manuscript collections and is responsible for Special Collections--the university's old and rare books and materials assemblage.

Archivists and Records Managers generally hold a master's degree in history, public history, library/information science, or business. They work in every sector, have a better than average competency with technology, and the kind of personality that allows a person to sit in the basement sorting papers and computer files for long periods of time and equally to talk to anyone politely and helpfully about their records or research; to enthusiastically discuss a given collection, and to multitask to an extreme.

Subject Guide

Rebecca Robbennolt's picture
Rebecca Robbennolt
(262) 595-2411

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