Electronic records present a new opportunity for documentation of the university and its people, places, and events, but also a new challenge. Most importantly, electronic records are not inherently permanent. File formats change, the integrity of data will degrade over time, and storage space, while plentiful, is not infinite. This page will attempt to provide general guidelines for preparing various types of records for transfer to the Archives, where they will be preserved and made accessible to help us tell the story of UWM in the 21st Century and beyond.
These recommendations are heavily influenced by the InterPARES Guidelines for Creators, University of British Columbia.
- Preparation for all records
- Small quantities of application files (floppies, CD-Rs, etc.)
- Large quantities of application files (entire hard drives, OneDrive accounts, etc.)
- E-mail systems and Course Management Systems (D2L)
For the purposes of long-term preservation, electronic records need to be both readable (i.e. it will be possible to open the file in the future) and authentic (i.e. it will be possible to prove that the file has not been tampered with). Most electronic records that will be sent to the University Archives will be application files, i.e. discrete files that have been created by a desktop application (Word, PowerPoint, Photoshop, etc.), and it is to these records that these guidelines will mostly apply.
- Create a file structure. Try to create a foldering scheme that makes it easy to navigate your files (e.g. folders by date for correspondence; folders by subject for project files, etc.). The Archives does not generally rearrange files, so it will be important that your files be navigable by Archives staff and researchers.
- Save your files in sustainable file formats, where possible. These are formats that are not dependent on a specific program or application to be readable by future researchers. For a list of formats that meet these criteria, please see our Preferred File Formats page.
- Get your metadata in order. Metadata is data about the file itself and can usually be viewed by going into an application’s ‘properties’ box or right-clicking and viewing properties within your computer’s explorer program. Examples of metadata include author, date last modified, date sent, subject, and recipient. Most fields, such as date last modified and file size, are determined automatically by your system; others, such as date sent or author, may be evident from the file itself. In cases where you do have additional information about a file– people in a photograph, for example– now is the time to add it, either attached to the file itself or in an associated text file.
- Write-protect your files. This is necessary to be able to prove that no tampering of the files occurred after the final version was completed. Some formats, such as PDF and many image files, are inherently unable to be altered once fixed and require little action. Other formats, such as those that can be created via Microsoft Office products, can be locked within the application. Still others will need to be manually marked read-only in the system explorer.
- Identify all confidential records. Because of the volume and ease of sharing electronic records, it is especially important to be aware of any sensitive or confidential information that may exist in your files. Please append “confidential” to relevant folder names, indicate all confidential files in a file or folder listing, or otherwise inform the Archives of all protected records. If you are unsure if a record is considered confidential or not, consult the relevant record schedule for guidance.
If you have only a few files to send to the archives, you have two options for transfer:
- Share the files via OneDrive/SharePoint. Archives staff will download the files from your account onto our server.
- Send the files physically to the archives on CD-R, DVD-R, or Flash drive.. These should be delivered separately if possible and not interfiled with any paper records you may have to send us. Please label the discs for ease of process and transfer. Please do NOT send us floppy disks if at all possible; you should transfer files from floppies to one of the above acceptable media.
In cases of very large quantities or file sizes, we can pick up entire computer systems or external hard drives as needed. Please contact the Archives for more details. If you will be sending us an entire hard drive, please remember to delete and/or transfer all personal files from the drive before sending it to the Archives.
In the case of both e-mail accounts and spaces on D2L, you will usually select folders and/or pages to export as a whole, rather than exporting individual documents or e-mails. Each program will have its own instructions on exporting accounts, which either UITS or the Archives can usually help you with. Once these are exported (usually into *.eml files or one large MBOX or PST email archive file), they should be sent to the archives as per the instructions under Small quantities of application files.
Databases should be converted to a form that does not require a particular application to function. In most cases, this form will be either Tab-Delimited or CSV (Comma-Separated Variable). MS Access has an export data function that automatically converts data from an access database to CSV. It is very important if converting databases to text that you make sure your fields line up correctly (i.e. the headers correspond to their data elements). If you have a large number of empty entries in one field, it may be necessary to input a placeholder or “null value” in the empty entries to achieve a proper conversion.
If necessary, the Archives can accept SQL dumps; however, this format compromises the immediate readability of the database for research purposes and is not recommended. If sending data in this format, please include information about reconstituting the database for display if possible.