Extensive Collection of University Archives

–submitted by Linda Maremont; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

David Null

UW Archivist David Null (right) pictured here with Club President Ellsworth Brown

David Null spoke to the club this week about the collections and services provided to the State by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives.  David has been Director of the University Archives and Records Management at UW-Madison since 2005, after being Acting Head since May of 2002.

The University Archives are frequently confused with the Historical Society Archives.  Though they are both located on the UW-Madison campus, they are different entities.  The University Archives are the official repository for the UW-Madison campus, the early University, UW System Administration and UW Colleges and the UW Extension.

The Archives have an extensive collection, including:  27,000 cubic feet of paper materials, 2,500,000 images, 1,400 oral histories, 10,000 audio/video tapes and films and various objects and memorabilia.  While they do not have a museum they are open to public to view any of their materials at their location in Steenbock Library.

The Archives have a social media presence on Tumblr, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter.  They post archival photographs and information on these sites as well as on their own website which are frequently shared and accessed across the globe.

An ongoing challenge is to determine what materials are worthy of digitization.  While this enables them to be viewed by a wider audience via the web, digitization is more time consuming and costly than most people realize.  The Aldo Leopold archives, for example, were the most used collection in paper and now can be accessed digitally all over the world.  However, the process took 2.5 years to complete at a cost of $220,000.

An additional challenge is to determine what items should be considered from an archival perspective that may never have been on paper, such as e-mails and social media communications.

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