Prepare Your Files

Archives and Special Collections are open by appointment only, limited to UMN affiliates. Appointments must be made one week in advance of your visit. Contact for assistance or the curator of the collecting area you wish to use. We continue to provide scans of requested research materials when possible, especially for our non-campus clientele.


This step-by-step guide covers the basics of preparing and sending your records to the archives. Contact us online or call (612) 624-0562 for further assistance.

Where do I start?
Please start by giving us a call! We'll ask a few questions about your files that will save you some time in advance. In certain cases, a staff member can make a site visit to assess your records.

What types of materials should be sent to University Archives?
Please review our transfer guidelines and feel free to contact us for a consultation about anything not described in the guidelines.

What can I throw away?
The Board of Regents's Policy on Libraries and Archives governs all records created by University units, administrators, staff and faculty. Certain types of records should be routinely and regularly transferred to Archives. Many records, however, may be recycled or destroyed after a specified amount of time ("retention period"). The University Records and Information Management Program's records retention schedule has some good information about what can be destroyed and recycled. More information is available through our transfer guidelines. If you're in doubt, just give us a call.

How do I prepare the files for transfer?
Start by removing files from hanging folders. If the labels are on the hanging folders, please staple the label to the folder. If the materials are not already in folders, please replace the hanging files with folders. Please remove materials from binders and put them in folders (adding the label information from the binder to the folders). Please don't pack the boxes too tightly! You should be able to comfortably slide your hand into the box and covers should fit snugly.

Hopefully, you already have a listing of the files. If not, a brief listing (electronic, please -- Microsoft Word or Excel is fine) will make processing on our end go much more quickly. Ideally, your list would include folder titles and dates along with the box numbers as you assign them as you pack.

Create a brief summary description of the materials and include the relevant information:


  • Name of unit
  • Approximate date span of records
  • Summary of contents (e.g., self study report and correspondence, 1980-1981; curriculum planning files and minutes, 1991-1994)
  • Total number of boxes
  • Number each box in pencil only in the following format: Box 1 of 2; Box 2 of 2

Contact us when you're ready to arrange for the transfer. The Libraries' shipping department will pick up the boxes.

What happens to the files after they are sent to the archives?
Our staff will review, organize and describe the files. We'll remove some types of materials such as duplicates, routine transactional records (like travel vouchers), and certain types of personal information. We'll also remove any materials that would be better suited for the Libraries circulating collection instead of the Archives. If you have questions or concerns about materials removed after you send the boxes to Archives, please let us know as soon as possible. Again, you may find our Guidelines a useful reference as you pack.

Depending on the current filing scheme and the age and condition of the materials, we may physically rearrange the materials and re-folder some or all of the materials. Once that's done, we'll prepare a summary description of the material with administrative information and a box list. In some cases, we will prepare a more detailed folder listing. This information is compiled into a collection guide or finding aid that will go online and make the collection accessible to you, others in the University, and the public. You can look at some examples of finding aids on our website.

How will I access the files?
The files will always be available for your use onsite in the Archives, and reference service by phone or email is available for many types of requests. The online finding aid will serve as your new list and you can reference it when you call us. In some cases, we can mark up your original list with the new box numbers and return it to you if you need it as a cross-reference. If this is a particular concern, please be sure to ask at the time of transfer.

Materials in the Archives are retained permanently with very few exceptions. Because the materials are rare or unique, they must be used onsite in our secure reading room. If you need photocopies or scans, we can provide them for you according to our procedures.

Please contact us in advance of your visit so that the materials will be ready for you in the reading room when you arrive. Some parts of the collections are stored offsite and may require a day or two to retrieve. In any case we always appreciate advance notice if you plan to visit. The University Archives is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 – 4:30.

More questions? Contact us!