Step by Step: The Archival Process, Part 1

The Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives is home to countless University records and historical documents, ranging from politician’s personal papers to Peter White’s famous spiked punch recipe. The staff is responsible for acquiring collections, maintaining the irreplaceable materials, and preparing all of it for public use. Each collection goes through a thorough process of organization and preservation before it is available to researchers. Let’s take a step by step look at the archival process.

The first step in this cumbersome procedure begins with the University Archivist and Records Manager, or in other words, the head honcho. Marcus Robyns is the Archivist for the Central Upper Peninsula and NMU Archives. He is responsible for deciding what collections the Archives should acquire, a process we call “Appraisal,” which begins with contacting people and organizations that possess documents of interest. He focuses mainly on historical materials concerning the central Upper Peninsula area as well as Northern Michigan University. These collections come from all types of donors: for example, the Archives has the John. D. Voelker papers, author of the famous novel “Anatomy of a Murder.” We also have documents from local organizations such as the Marquette Choral Society, and even local government documents such as the Marquette County Court records.

The Archivist’s job is to seek out these collections and oversee the legal aspect of donating the documents to our facility. We are often contacted by people who wish to donate to the Archives; however, we cannot accept every donation–the Archivist must decide if the material in question fits into our existing subject areas. If the documents are of interest, the donors are required to fill out the Material Transfer form that we have posted on our website. For manuscript collections, a Deed of Gift/Donor Agreement form is required. This establishes legal ownership and also allows the donor to dictate any specific stipulations for the handling of the collection, such as restrictions or special permission for publication by researchers.

Tune in next week to find out the next step in the management of archival material!

Prepared by Savannah Mallo and Olivia Ernst.


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