Workshop Offers Student Organizations Opportunity to Archive Records
Alex McGee is the university archivist for the Georgia Tech Library.
While Georgia Archives Month concluded at the end of October, the Georgia Tech Library’s Archives and Special Collections Department is hosting a workshop to remind student organizations of the importance of archiving their records. University Archivist Alex McGee, along with Digital Accessioning Archivist Dillon Henry, will lead the workshop on the fourth floor of Crosland Tower on Wednesday, Nov. 8, from 11 a.m. to noon. McGee and Henry share how student organizations can benefit from achieving their records and offers a few tips on how to get started.
Membership and leadership in student organizations often changes from year to year. How does this underscore the importance of keeping detailed and organized records?
Leadership changes often lead to organizational history and knowledge being lost if there isn’t a solid foundation of record keeping. Having a clear understanding of what documentation needs to be kept for your organization can help streamline the process. By keeping records, future leaders and members of your organization can glean insight into what worked, what didn’t, when major shifts in programming, membership, and budgets took place, and what factors contributed to them.
What are the best habits for organizations to get into to ensure records are adequately archived?
Consistent folder and file naming is key. Make dedicated folders for all aspects of your organization, from bylaws to meetings to one-time events. Make subfolders to keep track of chronology and use the YYYY-MM-DD date format. For example, a folder titled "2023-12 Meeting Notes" is far preferable to "Dec 2023 Meeting Notes." This ensures that when you sort by filename, the folders will be sorted chronologically.
Similarly, if you have a lot of photographs from an event or some other sort of sequential files, number them with leading 0s. For instance, start numbering with "001" rather than '1.' Again, this will ensure that files stay ordered.
If you have physical records, how you store them is another important consideration. They are best kept in labeled boxes, in a secure space on shelving, and not on the floor. Should there ever be a water event, things on the floor are guaranteed to get wet.
Lastly, especially with photos, document who is in them and when and where they are. Years from now, your members won't know these things, and this information is guaranteed to get lost.
If an organization feels overwhelmed as it begins to archive records, where should it start?
Reach out to the university archivist. Part of my job is to be a resource on campus for questions like these. Whether or not you want to donate records, I am happy to consult and make suggestions on how you can better keep your organization's history and, by extension, Georgia Tech history.
What resources are available to organizations to assist them in archiving their records?
The GT SORT Resource Guide is always available if you are looking for some basic guidance on how to start. This is an evolving guide that is going to be expanded to include more information about caring for your digital records. It also has information on what to do if your organization is interested in archiving your student organization’s historical records in the university archives in the Georgia Tech Library.
For digital files, there are free tools available that can help with various aspects of archiving. Advanced Renamer is a powerful tool for batch file renaming, which can save a lot of time and headaches in organizing your files. DupeGuru is a tool for finding duplicate files, including photographs, which can decrease clutter and save space. If you have flash drives or old CDs with organization records lying around, FTK Imager can help you create disk images and extract files.
For more overarching assistance, COPTR is an invaluable resource with information on hundreds of tools and workflows for all stages of digital preservation.
What can participants of Wednesday’s workshop expect to learn about the archiving process?
This workshop is an opportunity to get a crash course in the basics of what to keep from a historical perspective and how to keep them. Physical and digital records each provide their own unique challenges, and we will be sharing some good practices to get you started or improve your organization’s existing system.
We will also be providing free “starter kits” for organizations that attend Wednesday, including acid-free archival boxes and folders. Plus, the workshop will offer free food for attendees.
This workshop is made possible thanks in part to the Society of Georgia Archivists Georgia Archives Month Spotlight Grant.