The University Record, April 9, 1996

Bentley looks at ways to maintain digital records

I read with interest the article regarding the disposition of MTS tapes (March 26, page 12). The article noted that the tapes might "contain important archival material." As director of the Bentley Historical Library, which houses the University Archives, I want to provide some additional information. Bentley archivists reviewed the list of tapes and selected those tapes containing U-M records with sufficient archival and historical value to warrant their preservation. The article's mention of "archival material" referred to individuals' personal and private electronic archives and not to official University records. Because of the random way data and text were stored on the tapes, the identification of valuable University of Michigan archival records was extremely difficult for a variety of reasons. Bentley and Information Technology Division staff were mindful of the necessity to separate out that which was official U-M records from that which was personal and private without impinging on the privacy rights of members of the University community. The tapes preserved by the Bentley Library do not, to the best of our knowledge, contain any non-University records.

Most important, Bentley staff are working toward developing strategies and tools to assist in identifying, preserving and making accessible U-M's official and historical records created in the digital environment. This effort has been made even more difficult as the campus has moved from a centralized computing system (MTS) to the new distributed computing environment. While there are challenges in developing a system to capture the university's archival and his torical records in digital form, the potential benefits are significant for the community to have computerized access to the U-M's archival record. We are currently seeking partners to explore the move of University units from a paper-based record system to one which is characterized by both digital records and traditional paper records. Units interested in participating in pilot projects should contact Marjorie Barritt at 764-3482 or via e-mail at


Francis X. Blouin

Director, Bentley Historical Library