2,000 cubic feet. That’s how large Clayton State University’s archives collection is.
Comprised of nearly 500,000 photographs, in addition to many papers, publications, object artifacts and old equipment dating back to 1965, the collection is smaller and more recent compared to other universities, but it provides a broad picture of Clayton State’s early days up to the present.
“The University Archives collects, maintains, preserves and provides access to the history of the university—its traditions, its people, its governing, its students, its faculty and staff,” says University Archivist Rosemary Fischer.
For the most part, the archives collection is packed and protected in hundreds of boxes, folders and other preservation containers. But Fischer is currently undergoing a long and arduous process of digitizing all the documents.
“Scanning and digitizing is time consuming,” Fischer says. “It takes a lot of work.”
As the sole staff member within University Archives, Fischer relies on student interns to assist her in the archiving and digitizing process.
Together, Fischer and the interns go through each box of archives, meticulously scanning each document to create a PDF. Those scanned images are compiled and logged to be placed on a future digital archives webpage that anyone on campus can access.
Fischer hopes to have the online database up and running by the end of the semester.
“You can search collections by name, by date by item,” she says. “It will be very searchable, very friendly and very easy to use.”
Experts say archival preservation in an electronic environment is not as straightforward as traditional, paper-based preservation.
“Archives face many challenges both in dealing with paper based records and electronic records,” says Joshua Kitchens, director of the master’s of Archival Studies program at Clayton State. “The key to is to create systems and governing frame works the ensure that records deemed permeant are maintained in a way the ensure a useful and long existence.”
Kitchens says organizations have to consider several factors including discovering what properties of electronic records need to be preserved, building in redundancy to preservation systems and ensuring that records don’t degrade and change over time.
Increasing access to records allows for greater access to an institutions archives, Kitchens added. But risks, like copyright and privacy concerns, are also involved when archives are made available to the public.
“Placing records online only acerbates these problems,” Kitchen says.
Fischer is currently working to develop relationships with departments and divisions within the University to help them collect and digitize archives. Offices provide an intern or work study student to work strictly on their collection. Fischer says she will train the student on how to archive documents, while the department or division teaches the student its filing system.
Fischer is already working with the Athletics department to digitize their archives. She says departments interested in archiving their documents can contact her to begin the process.