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University Archives: Home

An overview of archival resources available documenting the history of the University of Nevada, Reno and the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Good Background Sources

Here are several histories of the University.

University Timelines

Getting Started with Research

Welcome! This guide is meant to help familiarize you with the resources available for the history of the University of Nevada, Reno, and the Nevada System of Higher Education. Whether you are curious about the activities of a student organization, want to track the development of a university  department, or need a photograph of the campus from the 19th century, University Archives is the repository of the University's memories via:

  • administrative records
  • architectural drawings of campus buildings and campus maps
  • campus publications
  • event memorabilia
  • faculty papers
  • photographs
  • audio and video recordings
  • Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) records
  • subject files

What is the University Archives?

The University Archives is the designated repository for all records, documents, publications and other materials pertaining to the operation of the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), its colleges and schools, and all other agencies formally related to it. (University Administration Manual Section 4012 on p. 245-246) The archives also holds selected records of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE). Located in Room 310 of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center with the Special Collections Department, the University Archives was established in 1964 and houses records of the University and related materials selected for their enduring historical value. From its earliest days in the 1880s, in Morrill Hall on "the hill" north of Reno, to the present as part of the statewide Nevada System of Higher Education, much of the administrative history and development of the University of Nevada, Reno is documented through the records that are held in the Archives. The variety of material from its schools, colleges, academic departments, administrative offices, faculty, staff and student organizations help trace the intellectual, cultural and social environments that have shaped the university throughout its history. In cooperation with offices and individuals across campus, records are selected, transferred to the archives, and made available for research in an ongoing process by the archives staff. These resources support university administration and governance, outreach activities, and many of its teaching and research programs, and are available to all members of the university community, as well as to researchers outside the university.

The Archives provides environmentally stable and secure storage and reference areas and monitors reference use of materials.  Records transferred to the Archives are always available to the depositing office.

What are Archival Records?

The Archives considers archival or historical records to be those materials generated by University offices — in published and unpublished form — which are inactive and substantive in content. Records are considered inactive when they are referred to infrequently and no longer have administrative value for the office which generated them. Substantive records contain information which document important activities of the creating office: the development of programs, changes in structure and function, etc. To complement the official records of the University, certain types of personal papers, records of non-university organizations, and general historical materials that document various aspects of the University community will also be considered for inclusion in the Archives. Archival records may be paper-based, on audio-visual media, or digital in origin. Their historical research value is appraised strictly on content.

Collecting Areas

To document the intellectual, administrative, cultural, and social environments of the University of Nevada, Reno as comprehensively as possible the University Archives actively collects:

  • University Records
  • Faculty Papers
  • Personal or Organizational Records

University Records

The administrative records produced by the university in the course of its teaching, research, service, and outreach activities comprise the core of the University Archive's holdings and have the highest collecting priority. It is the primary function of the Archives to document as completely as possible the active administration and functions of the university through the records produced by the president, vice-presidents and other upper level administrators, schools and colleges, academic departments and programs, research centers, libraries, committees, boards, councils and other governance bodies. These unique records are the most tangible evidence of UNR's history and activities and constitute a large portion of the permanent historical record of the University. They provide officers and staff of the University with materials necessary to understand and interpret the evolution of University policies and activities. They provide scholars with essential historical perspective and documentation of how UNR has pursued its role as an institution of higher education. They also support the ongoing development and traditions of the UNR community, fostering an appreciation for the contributions made over the years by its members.

The following guidelines will assist administrators, and faculty and staff in identifying those portions of their files that are appropriate for transfer to the Archives. All information formats (e.g., published, typescript, audio-visual formats, and electronic data) are appropriate for transfer. Examples of some of the types of historically valuable records that a typical university department or office might produce in the course of its operation and should be considered for transfer include but are not limited to:

  • Correspondence and memoranda
  • Constitutions and by-laws
  • Topical/subject files
  • Meeting agendas, minutes, and other committee materials
  • Planning documents
  • Accreditation records
  • Policy and mission statements
  • Reports, summaries and surveys
  • Procedures manuals
  • Publications
  • Promotional and outreach materials
  • Grant and project files
  • Event records
  • Research records
  • Teaching and curriculum materials
  • Press releases
  • Photographs
  • Video and audio recordings

Because they are only of transient value or contain confidential information and have little or no research value, the following types of records should not be transferred the Archives:

  • Personnel records
  • Employment records
  • Student records
  • Purchasing records and other materials related to specific financial transactions
  • Travel records
  • Routine letters of transmittal and acknowledgement
  • Other administrative support records

These lists are intended as general guides. If there are questions about types of records not listed here please do not dispose of them, please contact the Archives for assistance. See "Preparing Records for Transfer" at the right for detailed instructions on preparing material tor transfer to University Archives.

Faculty Papers

Faculty papers can contain significant information on teaching, research, and professional activities, areas through which researchers can gain a valuable perspective on the intellectual vitality of the university community. The Archives collects the personal papers of representative faculty in an endeavor to document the intellectual environment of the University of Nevada, Reno.

The primary collecting objective is to document the careers of faculty members who meet some or all of the following criteria:

  • have been valued teachers
  • have defined significant ideas
  • have undertaken important research
  • have carried out exemplary service to the university or the larger community
  • The Archives will give highest priority to those faculty papers which can be open for research use.

The following types of material found in faculty papers are considered to have potential historical value:

  • correspondence of a substantive nature, including e-mail
  • lecture notes and curriculum materials, speeches
  • records of departmental or university-wide activities
  • research-related records
  • bibliographies, vitae, photographs, films, and audio and video recordings

University faculty members interested in donating personal papers are encouraged to contact the Archives.

Personal or Organizational Records

The Archives also accepts personal correspondence, diaries, photographs, scrapbooks, memorabilia, and other personal papers, organizational records, and other types of records and general historical materials that document various aspects of the university community and complement official records created by the University of Nevada, Reno and the Nevada System of Higher Education.


What Happens to Records in the Archives?

The primary function of the University Archives is to locate, appraise, select, preserve and provide access to the records of the University and related materials of enduring historical research value. After records are received in the Archives, they will be processed following professional archival standards and procedures. Every effort is made during processing to maintain the integrity of the records as a group, while at the same time making them accessible to researchers and preserving them from long and short term deterioration. The Archives provides environmentally stable and secure storage and reference areas and monitors reference use of materials. Records transferred to the Archives will always be available to the depositing office.

Interim University Archivist

How Are the Records Accessed?

Several print and online reference tools exist to assist researchers in locating materials in the University Archives. Resources range from general collection descriptions in the University's online catalog to detailed inventories, databases, indexes, and other specialized descriptive material. The University Archivist and other professional staff are always available to assist researchers.

The Online library catalog of the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries is the primary access point for the holdings of the University Archives. The majority of university records in the Archives are arranged by the creating department or individual records or collections. Record collections have an assigned AC (Archives Collection) or other call number for identification and retrieval. Records exist for most processed collections in the archives and include a general description of contents, span dates, size, and a brief description of the creator or creating office of the records. Example of a catalog record. Some catalog records will also link to a more detailed description of the contents of the collection, called a collection guide, if one is available.

For more search options, try an Advanced Search of the Library catalog. To limit results to the Archives, select UNR Special Collections and Archives in the location dropdown box.

Preparing Records for Transfer

Ensuring the appropriate preservation and disposition of University records is a shared responsibility. The University Archives provides professional guidance and expertise in assuming custody of historical records no longer needed in University offices, and in providing access to researchers, administrators, and the UNR community. The University Library provides administrative support to the Archives through the Special Collections Department and access to the services and systems needed to carry out its responsibilities. University offices that create and maintain records are responsible for their preservation and security while they are in active use, determine when they are no longer needed on site, and provide essential information on their contents and uses to support appraisal and access.

When a university office believes it may have records of permanent historical value to transfer to the University Archives, the first step in the process is to contact the archives by e-mail or phone. The University Archivist will discuss with you the type and quantity of records to be transferred. Arrangements can often be made over the telephone, or it may be necessary for the archivist to visit your office to review the records. Please do not send records to the Archives without first consulting the archivist. Records transferred to the Archives will always be available to the depositing office.

When the department and the archives have agreed on what records are to be transferred, prepare them for transfer:

  1. Request archival records boxes from the archives.
  2. Pack the records and their original file folders into the boxes in the same order in which they were maintained in your office. It is important to transfer the file folders to the Archives with the records. Both legal and letter size files can be packed in the same type of record-storage box. When packing records into boxes leave two or three inches of space in each box so that files may be removed and refiled more easily.

    Visual directions for putting record-storage box together. Letter size documents go into 12"x15" drawers. Legal size documents go into 15"x10". One legal file drawer holds two containers. Two letter file drawers hold three containers, which are one cubic foot.
  3. In order to provide for a close accounting and to retain the proper order of a multi-box transfer it is important to label each box, in pencil, with the office name and the box number (i.e. ENGLISH DEPARTMENT, Box 1 of 5, Box 2 of 5, etc).
  4. A complete inventory of the contents of each box of the records to be transferred should be created in Microsoft Word or in plain text, and the data transferred to the Archives on a disk.
  5. When all preparations have been completed for transferring the records, fill out a Facilities Services Department work order form for pick-up and delivery of the records to the Archives. Notify the Archives that the material has been sent.
  6. For guidelines to prepare electronic records for transfer please contact the Archives.
  7. An Acknowledgement of Transfer form will be completed by the Archives and sent to the depositing office for signature. This form includes a general description of the records being deposited and transfers administrative custody of the records from the originating office to the University Archives. Records transferred to the Archives will always be available to the depositing office.

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