Documentation Policy Statement

College Archives
College of Saint Benedict

Core Mission

  1. To appraise, collect, organize, describe, make available, and preserve records of historical legal, fiscal, and/or administrative value to the College.
  2. To provide adequate facilities for the preservation of such records.
  3. To provide information services that will assist the operation of the institution.
  4. To serve as a resource and laboratory to stimulate and nourish creative teaching and learning.
  5. To serve research and scholarship by making available and encouraging the use of its collections by members of the institution and the community at large.
  6. To promote knowledge and understanding of the origins, aims, and goals of the institution, and of the development of these aims, goals, and programs.


In addition to the general need to preserve historically valuable records and artifacts about the development of the College and its relationships with Saint John’s University, as well as with Saint Benedict’s Monastery, we also have the papers of Joe O’Connell, our artist-in-residence for over 30 years who is well known for his liturgical prints and sculpture; the papers and effects of dance instructor Margret Dietz; and some of the papers of art professor Johanna Becker, OSB.  In addition to traditional paper records, efforts are made to capture oral histories about intriguing or important events.

 Types of Researchers Served

The primary researchers we are prepared to serve are the students, administrators, faculty and staff of the College. In addition, we occasionally get questions from alumnae, their families, local community members, or an occasional writer. Other queries come in from people studying women’s or Catholic colleges.

Relation to Other Permanent Holders of Information Resources

The Archives all overlap to some degree. The College Archives shares with the Monastery the responsibility of preserving the records of the College before and after 1961. The College Archives also shares coordinate, cooperate and joint records collection responsibilities with Saint John’s University Archives. The University Archives, of course, overlaps with the other Abbey corporate interests.

The Data Warehouse is managing the machine readable data already collected by the institutions; preserving and organizing data from recent studies, and creating special data sets that will be useful in current and future studies.

Institutional Advancement’s Information Management collects and maintains data on people who serve and support the college. All alumnae records will be kept either in IA or in the Archives for posterity. Other highly discretionary information about donors would not be used by other departments, and therefore holds no secondary research value to the colleges, which means it probably would never be transferred to the Archives.

Libraries collect books, journals, and provide the gateway on campus to the internet. All of this is information that is created outside the institution, is brought here to support the academic interests of the campus community, and is not preserved beyond its relevancy to current research trends, but is constantly replaced by the next wave of current materials.

The Registrar maintains all records on student academic progress. Some college archives maintain such records, but our Registrar has long experience specializing in the preservation, access and laws governing these records, and all questions about these records are simply referred to that office.

All official records about student groups such as charter, constitution, and member rosters, are currently housed in the office of the Joint Student Activities Director. To date there is no interest in removal of these records to the archives.

Locus of Responsibility for Acquiring Materials

The responsibility of the Archives for acquiring materials is clearly explained in the Joint Records Policy to be published in the new staff handbooks: “the decision to select and preserve records of historical value is the responsibility of the Archivist;” and “No College records shall be discarded, destroyed or transferred from the custody of the home institution or otherwise disposed of except upon the prior approval of the Archivist;” and finally “the Archivist shall withhold the approval for destruction of records until satisfied that the records involved need not be retained…”

Criteria Used in Selecting Materials

  1. Records should document the development and growth of the College.
  2. Priority should usually be given to those records that reflect the development and activities of those college offices and committees that cut across departmental divisions and that formulate or approve college-wide or division-wide policy, as well as faculty and administrative involvement in those activities.
  3. Archives may accept records in imminent danger of loss or destruction for temporary storage pending a decision on ultimate accession or disposal.
  4. Checklist of core records:

Statement of Desired Levels of Coverage

Thorough and complete coverage of the core checklist is intended. In areas deemed weak, improved record keeping may be proposed, or oral history interviews created to augment the written record. Oral history interviews will also be produced to add human interest to some well-documented events of the College.

Commentary on Past and Future Directions for Repository

Before 1994, little was systematically collected. Since the formal program was begun, collection and arrangement of the written record has been the predominant focus. However, the movement toward more electronic record keeping is a great concern for the future.

Unlike libraries, which hold information that was created explicitly for the activity of research and knowledge gathering, most of what archives collect was originally created to serve some other administrative purpose. Only after it is no longer useful to the creating department do paper records come to the archives to be appraised for any possible secondary research value to the wider institution or community. At this stage of the current computer revolution electronic records are quickly becoming the record form of choice. Electronic records are a wonderful innovation and driver of the information age as they speed up access to any and all kinds of active records (record groups needing frequent reference by the originating office). The question we now need to ask is, with digital record keeping, how do we satisfy our future secondary research needs for historical data or evidence of today’s and tomorrow’s programs?

In this time, when the world of information grows up faster than our children, the cautious position of archivists in modest environments can be seen as an aversion to change. But it is in the job description of the archivist to protect and preserve the historical record of the College, and therefore risky digital migration preservation programs that count on unknown future innovations are avoided. The problem for the historical record keepers today is the fact that there are numerous potential problems and challenges in long term storage of digital information, especially with systems that have been designed with a vision limited only to the immediate needs of the originating department. How can we capture the history and development of the college as it is today when we are publishing more and more documents on the network, to guarantee that we will have those documents for reference in the future? There are multiple choices evident:

1. Do nothing. The historically valuable records that come to the archives in paper or microfilm will be preserved. All else will be lost until the preservation platform of the future comes into being.

2. Selectively migrate information to preserve some electronic information. At the present time CSB Archives does this to a limited degree: the printing of email announcements off the network for the ephemera file, the printing of student activities home pages, and the receipt of one of the few printed copies of Every Woman’s Guide which is now distributed exclusively on the network. Since the use of the network for disseminating information is rapidly becoming the institutional norm, there is needed from the Presidents to all employees a simple public mandate of the responsibilities of the offices to (1) notify the archives that publication has moved to the network or the web page, and/or (2) that it is their internal responsibility to prepare a hard copy version and send it to their campus archives.

3. The most ambitious degree of oversight the institution could provide would be to do a blanket assessment of all information for institutional values at the creation stage of all new electronic record keeping systems. Many of our electronic information systems are dealing with transaction data which holds less historical value for the archives, but this point of evaluation would be helpful for the data warehouse and could impact all of our informational values and make this a really dynamic information environment. The goal of this choice would be to define all the current and potential future uses of the information; assess the need for machine intervention for future use of the information; weigh the values of the information to all administrative areas through out time; discuss the reference value to the general historical record; and make a conscious choice about what we will invest in preserving, how we will preserve it, until what point will preservation be maintained, and what can we afford to simply let go once the active use has passed?

Much new work needs to be done as we constantly try to anticipate the future information needs of the College. We can never know exactly what will be needed tomorrow, but no longer can we keep information just because it is easy to put on a shelf. If anything, electronic records may force archives to seek more input on what is valued, how much, and for how long.