Materials Not Appropriate for Retention

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Main Page > Materials Not Appropriate for Retention


Materials typically returned to donors or consigned to the trash, recycling, or sale heaps are listed below. In most cases, you will want to consult with your supervising archivist on how each class of materials should be handled within the context of your collection. We may not be processing a collection closely enough to remove every occurrence of these materials.

  • Multiple copies. It is rarely (maybe never) the case that we need more than one copy of any item, however, depending on the situation, we may decide it is too time-consuming to remove duplicate items.
  • Sensitive materials, like student records, job recommendations and evaluations, health records, etc. Some of these materials are very specifically covered under federal legislation. Check with your supervising archivist about legal considerations of potentially sensitive stuff.
  • Minor financial records in LARGE quantities, including 20th/21st-century checks, check stubs, bank statements, check registers, and other financial records. For similar materials from earlier times, consult with your supervising archivist before removing them.
  • Research notes, unless they make a real contribution to the creator's field of study or incredibly well organized, are usually useable only by their creator.
  • Greeting cards and postcards with no informational value. If greeting cards are of particular artifactual interest, they may be transferred to our Valentines and Greeting Cards (#1862) collection. Postcards with no informational value are usually not retained, but may be handled by our philatelic agent (see envelopes below).
  • Copies of materials in other repositories, whether photocopies, microfiche, microfilm, or generated by some other copying process. Sometimes these were collected by the creator for research use (whether academic or genealogical), and sometimes they are supplemental to materials in the collection. It is tempting to say that we NEVER retain these materials. This is usually the case when they were collected for research use. When they supplement materials in the collection, however, the decision becomes a bit more difficult. Nine times out of ten, we will not retain copies of materials in other repositories, but the smart choice is to discuss these materials with your supervising archivist.
  • Clippings of a miscellaneous nature. Clippings relating directly to the creator are usually retained, sometimes even to the point of photocopying them onto alkaline paper. Collections of clippings on specific topics, especially if they relate to the creator's chief area(s) of interest, may be retained, even if they are available in microformat or hardcopy elsewhere.
  • Envelopes from letters or other items. Of course, you will have annotated the enclosed documents with the significant information from the envelope before you separate these items. Remove envelopes as you annotate. We typically offer covers (what envelopes are called in the philatelic biz) for sale when it is clear that the collections from which they come are gifts (state law prohibits us from reselling property—the envelopes—that were purchased with state money) and that the donor does not want such materials returned.
  • Currency, coins, stock certificates, and similar materials. We typically offer currency and coins to the North Carolina Collection or mark these and related materials for sale when it is clear that the collection from which they come is a gift and that the donor does not want such materials returned.
  • Hair, wherever you find it (e.g., in envelopes, in scrapbooks). Hairlooms are a constant reminder that people will save absolutely anything. If there is any informational value, you will want to photocopy the hairloom onto alkaline paper. Some hairlooms are of artifactual value; let your supervising archivist know about these items when you find them.
  • Organic materials, including flowers, grasses, pet bugs. OUT, OUT, OUT, please. Organic materials with informational value should be photocopied onto alkaline paper.
  • Brass name plates and other bulky items, unless you feel that they should be retained as museum items. If the item has no artifactual value, but contains significant information, you may want to photocopy it onto alkaline paper.
  • Picture frames, ninety-nine percent of the time we dispose of these in the trash, carefully. Make sure that glass, nails, and other frame parts do not present a danger to the unsuspecting person who is emptying the trash.
  • Printed material, books, government documents, periodicals, maps, and other publications that do not contribute to the understanding of the creator’s life and/or activities are often transferred to other departments in the University Library or recycled.
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