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University of Virginia Archives

Introduction | Archives as Public Records | Administrative History | Access to Archives | Conducting Research | Organization of Archives | Record Groups | 19th Century | 20th Century | U.Va. Presidents

 

Introduction

The University of Virginia Archives administers the non-current records of lasting value that are generated by or that document the activities of the students, faculty, and administrators of the University. Records consist of information that may be many recorded in any of a variety of formats such as: correspondence on paper or in electronic form (email); office administrative files of information organized by subject; financial information on computer tape or microfiche; invoices; tape recordings of meetings; videotape or movie film of graduation; etc.

The University Archives administers a diverse grouping of records and University publications including: personal papers of faculty members (over 130 separate collections); student letters, class papers, and examinations; official student records such as transcripts and matriculation rolls; minutes of the Board of Visitors (trustees), of the various faculties, and of student bodies; office files of administrators suchas the president, the vice presidents, and deans; working files of University committees; editorial files of the Virginia Quarterly Review; and a host of student and official University publications such as the catalogs, yearbooks, annual reports, brochures, and those issued by the University Press of Virginia, the Alumni Association, the Office of Student Affairs, and various student groups.

Some records created in University offices are of little long-term importance. The phone messages that most of us receive are a good example. Other records have lasting value for legal, administrative, or financial purposes, or for historical reasons, and must be kept either for a period of years, or permanently. The official minutes of the University's Board of Visitors (trustees) are a legal record of the actions of the University's governing body and must be preserved permanently.

Current records at the University remain in the offices of those who created them until they are no longer needed on a daily basis. At that time, they become non-current, and are considered either for destruction under the state's records management program, or for transfer to the Archives.

The Archives also is a service unit of the University, and provides information from records in its custody to University officials as they need it.

Archives Holdings as Public Records

The University of Virginia is a state agency. Its official, or public, records are governed by provisions of the Public Records Act of the Code of Virginia, and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The majority of public records are available for inspection by citizens of the Commonwealth whether still held in the offices that created them or in the custody of the University Archives. Personnel and a few other categories of records are not open for public inspection. For access to records still in University offices, the interested party must make application through the University's General Counsel's Office.


Administrative History of the University Archives

Archival records have been accumulated since the inception of the University, although there were few attempts to consolidate these before the 1930s. The Board of Visitors appropriated a small room between two dormitory rooms in 1854 to preserve the records of the Board of Visitors. Most other records remained in their originating offices, since no great volume was involved. A few records found their way to the Virginia Room of the Rotunda Library.

In 1930, Lester Cappon was appointed the first University Archivist, a position that focused primarily on manuscripts curatorship rather than on official University records. Nevertheless, in 1936 Cappon published the results of a records survey undertaken by him and by WPA workers of the Historical Records Survey. Those findings revealed the scope and location of most of the University's nineteenth-century official records. With the opening of Alderman Library two years later, the University had both laid the groundwork and found the facilities for a centrally located archives, and archival records were gradually transferred from offices throughout the University over the next few decades.

The administrative distinction between "University Archives" and other manuscript holdings remained blurred, however, and archival materials were either accessioned and cataloged with other manuscript collections or, in the case of printed materials, added to the Rare Book collection of the Library. In the 1960s, the title "University Archivist" passed to a position outside the Library, leaving the practical administration of these materials to the Curator of Manuscripts.

In July, 1975, that title returned to the Curator of Manuscripts, and during the following year work commenced on formally establishing the University Archives administratively and physically separate from the various Library units that had until then assumed control over archival records, and in bringing archival control to the records. Efforts have continued since then to transfer archival materials from the Rare Book and Manuscripts Divisions, to receive archival transfers from various offices throughout the University, and to gather and to classify by archival principles materials that meet our criteria for permanent preservation.

Access to Records in the University Archives

The University Archives is today a unit of the Small Special Collections Library. Please note that archival materials do not circulate and must be used in the Special Collections Reading Room.

The Library's online catalog, VIRGO, holds only a small number of entries for records in the University Archives although the archives staff has begun to create VIRGO records for newly-received and selected older records. It is best to contact the Library to discuss the information that you would like to find. We should be able to guide you to the record groups and series most likely to contain the information you want.

Access to certain records in the Archives is restricted. Under the terms of the federal statute called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, only minimum information about students may be released to the public. Virginia has statutes concerning privacy; personnel matters may not be made public, for instance. Although the records created by the presidents of the several Virginia institutions of higher learning are exempt from the provisions of the state's Freedom of Information Act, the presidents of the University of Virginia have chosen to open their papers for research when they are ten years old. In this year, 1998, records created in 1988 are available.


Research in Records in the University Archives

Finding the information that you need in records held by the University Archives can be a daunting task. There may be more than one series of records that may contain the information. One of them might be thirty cubic feet of records generated in one year by the President's Office; there may be as many as 30,000 pieces of paper in that series. Because we cannot index the individual pieces of paper in groups of this size., you must plan for the time necessary to examine a great many of them.

If you are considering research in the University Archives, please contact the staff for assistance . Because of our experience in working with the records, we may be able to guide you directly to the source of information, and to steer you away from other records.

We have a variety of finding aids that can assist as you begin your research. These usually are typed lists of file folder headings to the series of records in the Archives. You might begin your work by reviewing a list of the file folder headings for the thirty cubic feet of records created by the President and his staff. You may then discover only two folder headings that might contain the information you need. Rather than examining thirty feet, you will need to examine only two folders.

Each folder may contain fifty or more documents that will have to be examined one-by-one to determine if they contain the pertinent information. Should you find a number of folder headings that may contain the information that you need, you must allow the time for skim-reading considerable material.

We have a different sort of finding aid for faculty, student, and staff papers. These guides can be more detailed because of the nature of these sets of papers, and access is faster and easier. There are series of records in the Archives for which no finding aids exist. The Archives staff will work with you to see that you can use these records.

Organization of Records in the University Archives

The basic archival principle by which records are organized in the University Archives is that of respect for the original order. That is, the great majority of records are kept in the order in which they were filed in the office that generated them. It is assumed that the creating office had good reasons for selecting its filing system, and further, that the original order reveals something about the creators of the records.

Because records in the Archives are maintained in their original order, they are organized and accessed by the names of the offices that created them. In 1975, when the University Archives was being formally organized, staff reviewed the organization chart of the University, and established a series of record groups to control the records. The University has a structure with a number of large organizational units, each with smaller units under it. The records of each of the smaller groups are interrelated because of their administrative placement under the larger organizational unit. Each of these large units was designated as a record group, and assigned a number. The Rector and Visitors (trustees) of the University as its governing body became Record Group 1, the Office of the President, Record Group 2, and so on. Approximately thirty record groups were established, and several have been added since. In addition to the record groups established from the organizational chart, other groups were added that related to types of records such as oral histories, and records not created by the University itself, but relating to it, such as the Young Mens Christian Association.


University Archives Record Groups

RG - 1
THE RECTOR AND VISITORS
RG - 2
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
RG - 3
OFFICE OF THE PROVOST
RG - 4
OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR ADMINISTRATION (formerly Executive Vice President)
RG - 5
OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR BUSINESS AND FINANCE
RG - 6
SCHOOL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
RG - 7
SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE
RG - 8
McINTIRE SCHOOL OF COMMERCE
RG - 9
COLGATE W. DARDEN GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
RG - 10
CURRY SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
RG - 11
SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND APPLIED SCIENCES
RG - 12
UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
RG - 13
SUMMER SESSION
RG - 14
THE REGISTRAR
RG - 15
CENTER FOR PUBLIC SERVICE (formerly Institute of Government; Bureau of Public Administration)
RG - 16
DIVISION OF CONTINUING EDUCATION
RG - 17
VICE PRESIDENT FOR HEALTH AFFAIRS
RG - 18
OFFICE OF STUDENT AFFAIRS
RG - 19
FACULTIES
RG - 20 ADMINISTRATIVE COMMITTEES
RG - 22 STUDENTS AND ALUMNI PAPERS
RG - 23 STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS
RG - 24 UNIVERSITY ORGANIZATIONS
RG - 25 VICE PRESIDENT FOR DEVELOPMENT
RG - 26 ORAL HISTORY RECORDS
RG - 27 ATHLETIC PROGRAMS
RG - 28 YMCA
RG - 29 FACULTY ORGANIZATIONS
RG - 30 ADMINISTRATION, OPERATIONS, AND EXTRANEOUS RECORDS
RG - 31 FACILITIES MANAGEMENT (formerly Physical Plant and Properties)
RG - 32 SCHOOL OF LAW
RG - 33
WHITE BURKETT MILLER CENTER OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Nineteenth-Century Records

University records from the nineteenth century are extensive, and document most phases of life and administrative activities. Many of Thomas Jefferson's architectural drawings for the University's buildings are here together with a substantial quantity of his correspondence. Also available are such items as the minutes of the Board of Visitors, the Matriculation books (registration books signed by each student), Proctor's records (the administrative official responsible for the daily operations), Patron's records (official responsible for students and their money), and faculty minutes. Because there was no president of the University until 1904, administrative functions were carried on by an elected chairman of the faculty, and records of this official are not extensive.

Twentieth-Century Records

With the election of Edwin Anderson Alderman as the first president of the University in 1904, administration changed, and the records inevitably changed also. The small size of the all-male student body--students numbered just under 600 at this time--enabled Dr. Alderman to carry on much of the administration personally, and to keep a close eye on the rest. The Archives holds both his papers as president and his personal papers which contain a great deal of information about University operation.

As the size of the student body grew, the numbers of faculty and administrative officials and offices also grew with direct effect on the quantity of records. The records of Dr. Alderman's presidency, 1904-1931, fill about forty-two linear feet of shelving, while a recent transfer of one year's records from the Office of the President fills sixty linear feet.

The papers of the University presidents remain the best source of information about policies, decision making, and daily operations at the University in the twentieth century. There have been eight presidents.


Presidents of the University of Virginia

1904-1931
Edwin Anderson Alderman
1931-1947
John Lloyd Newcomb
1947-1959
Colgate Whitehead Darden
1959-1974
Edgar Finley Shannon, Jr.
1974-1985
Frank Loucks Hereford, Jr.
1985-1990
Robert M. O'Neil
1990-2010
John Thomas Casteen, III
2010-
Teresa A. Sullivan




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