What does “Archive” mean?

Don’t worry; I won’t start quoting definitions from The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I do want to make you aware, however, of what archivists mean when they say the word “archive.” In today’s world of Gmail and online “Archive” buttons, it’s understandable to think that “archive” means “to save something for later, even if it’s just a short amount of time.” My job is “to identify, preserve and make available noncurrent records and papers of enduring value.”1 Noncurrent refers to records that you do not plan to access on a regular basis. A good rule of thumb is that the records should be at least three years old, although there are exceptions to this rule. It’s possible that you will need to refer to some files after you have sent them to the Archives, and that’s fine, but don’t send files that you know you will need to constantly access. Enduring value refers to records that, for various reasons, should be kept in perpetuity and never destroyed. These records differ from those that you send to Duke’s Record Retention department, which stores your records for an agreed upon number of years and then shreds them. If you are unsure if your records belong at the Medical Center Archives, please contact me at dawne.lucas@duke.edu, or 383-2653. Do you have a question for “Ask the Archivist!”? Submit your question to dawne.lucas@duke.edu.