Comprehensive Records Survey

The Northern Michigan University and Central Upper Peninsula Archives contains manuscript collections from around the Upper Peninsula, but it also is an in-house collecting archives. As an in-house archives, university offices and departments transfer records to be archived and preserved at the University Records Center. Many of the records are not vital to the university’s function and are eventually destroyed according to retention and disposition schedules. Federal, State, and university policies dictate these schedules that the Archivist or Records Analyst follow to determine when records are confidentially disposed.

Ms. Sara Kiszka, Records Analyst, has launched a Comprehensive Records Survey (CRS) of all official university records on campus. The CRS uses the methodology of functional analysis to determine the historical value of University records.[1]

Functional analysis is a method of appraising records to determine their historical value. It carefully examines the mission and duties of an office. The staff analyzes the importance of each office function within the context of the parent institution’s primary functions and missions. Those office functions determined to be most important for completing the institution’s mission are likely to produce records with the greatest historical value. When appraising records, we identify the type and format of the records, how they are stored and arranged, and the frequency of how often they are used by staff. This macro level approach to arrangement allows us to view records as they are actually used, rather than how traditional appraisal purports them to be.

Typically, university records are arranged by the department or office hierarchy in the university. This method does not allow for flexibility within the constant shifting of departments and functions. With functional analysis method of appraisal for records, university records managers can better adapt their policies with that of the records produced by the university.

After five months of preparation, workshops, and staff, Ms. Kiszka launched the CRS at the beginning of Winter Semester, 2015. CRS Technicians, Prince Parker, Stefan Nelson, and Senior CRS Technician Morgan Paavola, have begun visiting academic departments and collecting information about how offices create and store their records. With this data, Ms. Kiszka and the CRS team will develop and publish online unique appraisal reports for every office; these reports will outline new disposition schedules and file storage recommendations among many other things.

Ms. Kiszka and Ms. Paavola are preparing a case study of the CRS for publication and presentation at the spring meeting of the Midwest Archives Conference and the annual conference of the Michigan Archival Association in June, 2015.


To follow the progress of the CRS click here


[1] Marcus Robyns, Using Functional Analysis in Archival Appraisal: A Practical and Effective Alternative to Traditional Appraisal Methodologies, 2014.

Written by Morgan Paavola


One thought on “Comprehensive Records Survey

  1. Pingback: Feeling Inspired at the Midwest Archives Conference | The Northern Tradition

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