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Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

Student Organization Records Toolkit (SORT) @ Lehigh Archives: Your Organization's Archives

This guide is created by Ilhan Citak based on SORT @Pitt by Zach Brodt


Once you have identified the records your organization wants to keep, the next step is determining how to maintain them. To best preserve your records, be sure to keep them in a dry, cool place. Moisture, excessive heat, and light can damage paper and audiovisual records.  Also, when possible, avoid using rubber bands, staples, paperclips, tape, etc., which can damage paper when not stored in an ideal environment. When possible, store the records on steel shelving or cabinets rather than wood, which emits a gas that, over time, can be harmful to your documents.

Luckily, several student groups have an office or storage space where they can keep their records; however, if your organization lacks such a space, then you should consider donating the records to the University Archives as an alternative to passing down the records from member to member each year.

Filing and Access

Wherever you keep the records, they have to be be kept together and filed in a way that works best for your group. Labeling all files with the full name and date of the topic will help the future members to identify them accurately. For photographs and scrapbooks, good practice includes identifying as many of the people depicted as possible.

It is very important to have an inventory of the records your organization  so that they can be identified and located easily. Also, when your group is ready to donate its records to the Archives, an inventory will make the transfer process easier and quicker.

Electronic Records

Electronic records, like email, photographs, etc., have become a large component of organizations’ files. Much like their paper counterparts, though, there are steps you can take to preserve these records and make them accessible to future members.

  • DO NOT store electronic records in your University email or Box account. These will be deactivated once you leave Lehigh and the records will disappear. Instead, you can maintain an email account specific to your organization or position within the organization and archive emails and documents there. This email address can then be passed down to the new officers each year. Services like Gmail also provide cloud storage (Google Drive) that allow document sharing and editing among several users.
  • DO store your electronic files in multiple places. For example, if you are utilizing cloud storage to maintain your organization's records you should also store the same records on a hard drive, CD, DVD or other portable media. However, portable media are relatively unstable and become obsolete rather quickly (remember floppy disks?) and so an external hard drive, which is relatively inexpensive, can offer a more stable storage solution.
  • DO decide what formats you would like to store your records in and be consistent. For text files .txt is ideal, but if you need to maintain formatting within a text document then save the file as a PDF. For large images, like digital photos, .tiff is the best format; however, many graphics are created as .jpg and can be maintained in that format.
  • DO organize your electronic files just as you would your paper records. That means like items, such as meeting minutes, should be kept in their own folder and clearly labeled. Create a standardized way of naming your organization's files so that members can quickly locate and identify the records they are looking for.

Social Media and Websites

The University Archives collects materials related to the activities of Lehigh. We also selectively add web and social media content to our collections that will appear in the general records schedule and that fit into collecting policies. Social media may include services such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The following general principles guide our collecting decisions.

  • We will occasionally collect materials in order to preserve conversations on topics of importance to university history.
  • We collect social media in compliance with the terms of service of the individual platforms.
  • We respect the privacy of individuals who have contributed to social media accounts or used hashtags but did not expect their contributions to be collected and shared by an archival repository. We will make attempts to anonymize contributors or restrict access to collections where we believe privacy may be a concern of contributors.
  • Contact Special Collections if you have questions and concerns about social media or websites.

(Social media and web archiving issues are still on-going discussions and collecting & retention rules are subject to change)