University Records Project to discover undocumented history

March 28, 2014  

The Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center is attempting to track down undocumented Purdue history through the University Records Project.

Started in March 2013, the University Records Project, a university-wide initiative supported by the provost’s office, seeks to identify records from all academic units on the West Lafayette campus that have lasting historical value to the departments and units of the University.

"The end goal is to incorporate management of historical documents into management of the rest of the university records," says Lauren White, project archivist for university records. "It would be part of the normal routine and easy for everyone to send documents to records management and the shredder, or send them to us to be saved."

The project hopes to reach four specific goals:

* Discovery of Purdue-created documents and records.

* Documentation of all departmental records and holdings.

* Education of and outreach to departments concerning care and preservation of their materials.

* Planning the feasibility of launching an archival university records program based upon survey findings.

The project will not transfer campus records to Archives, but instead will locate information that is important to campus history so that it can be preserved and accessed more conveniently.

Materials that are being surveyed through the project include academic papers, correspondence, letters and memos, digital and electronic files and reports. For a full list of materials, visit

White has met with departments in the College of Science, the College of Agriculture and the College of Engineering and will be moving on to the remaining colleges soon.

In her search, White has already discovered some unique historical documents including correspondence from faculty in the 1870s as they established departments and courses. She also has found early video and audio footage from the 1940s and 1950s.

"I think that's a cool look at how the University was adopting these new technologies as they came out and looks at what campus life was like," White says. 

The project will be completed in January 2015, when a proposal will be made to create an ongoing records program.

"If the proposal goes through, we would work with departments to transfer things to us so you could look at the paper records or pictures here [the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections]," White says.

Although some digital collections are available at, there is not a way to view all digital records that would be collected from departments at this time. Archivists are working on ways to make this information publicly available in the future.

For more information on the University Records Program, visit or contact Lauren White at

Writer: Hannah Harper,

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