Collection Development Policy


Our mission is to preserve University records and information of permanent legal, fiscal and/or historical value; provide records management services; and serve as an educational resource encouraging administrative and scholarly research in its collections.

General Scope

The University Archives is committed to preserving the work of individuals, departments, organizations and other entities associated with the UW-Madison, UW-System, and UW-Extension in their original formats, whether that be analog or digital. We aim to serve the research needs of UW-Madison faculty, staff, students, and alumni. To this end, we actively seek to collect materials from these constituencies as well as document academic departments and programs, in order to build upon and expand our collection holdings to help further research and preserve these records for future generations. We also consider service to national and international individuals and groups to be an important part of our mission. Materials within our vast holdings are meant to be used for scholarly, administrative, and educational research, but are often used for purposes beyond the research sphere. Each year, the University Archives draws in a large number of scholars and others from campus and beyond–enhancing the University’s overall reputation as an international leader in research and scholarship.


The University’s teaching, research, and outreach mission and its successful implementation of the Wisconsin Idea depend upon the effective and efficient management of information assets and resources. Wisconsin Statutes Section 19.31, Wisconsin Public Records Law and Records of State Offices Section 16.61, all define public records.  While these definitions are purposefully broad, the first describes the process by which people can access public records and the second provides the framework for the management of those records.  Records management at the University of Wisconsin is further governed by the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents under Policy 3-2, University of Wisconsin System Public Records Management

The Archives was founded in 1951, and in 1992 became a member library of the General Library System. It is an official State records repository under 16.61(13) of the Wisconsin Statutes and is governed by Faculty Legislation II-400 and by policies set through the University Archives Committee.

Collecting Areas

The sections below represent the main collecting areas of the University Archives. We collect a broad variety of formats which include (but are not  limited to) paper documents, electronic and born-digital records, artifacts, photographic media, audio, and moving images. In addition to subject content, we also consider long term preservation needs and capabilities, as well as duplicate copies when adding materials to our holdings.

Official state records 

Wisconsin is a “Sunshine State”, which means it has a long tradition of providing the public access to state government records. Public records are a cornerstone of an open, representative government, and the presumption is that these records belong to the citizens of the state and are accessible with certain exceptions.  

University records schedules ensure that records of historical, fiscal and/or legal value are identified and preserved for the citizens of Wisconsin. These records include (but are not limited to): governance and policy documents, administrative files, departmental historical files, events and programs, university contributions to research and discovery, campus-related audio and visual materials, and student organizations. 

The UW-Madison Archives collects official state records from the following entities: 

UW Colleges System Administration (Note: records for specific UW branch campuses are held at the campuses themselves or with their associated 4-year institutions)

Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television

The Archives collects the records and materials of Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) and Wisconsin Public Television (WPT). In addition to organizational records, the collections include thousands of analog and born digital audio-visual recordings produced by the radio and television stations. WPR collections include School of the Air and College/University of the Air records and audio recordings of programs such as Let’s Draw, Journeys in Musicland, and Afield with Ranger Mac. While WPT maintains most of its own moving image archive, the Archives’ holdings include University-related broadcasts such as UW Athletics games.

Historical materials

The Archives collects historical materials that help tell UW-Madison’s story and document the people, places, and events that contribute to that story. These items include (but are not limited to): 

  • Student life: records of student activities on campus such as correspondences, scrapbooks, photographs, and programs, administrative records, programming and outreach files, memorabilia, and much more.
  • Publications: publications in which the University is described or mentioned or which provide background for the history of the University.
  • Materials collected by people or organizations not connected with the university but which document the intellectual, cultural, administrative, and social life of UW-Madison.

University publications and student newspapers

The Archives collects published materials created by the UW-Madison, UW-System Administration, and UW-Extension community for internal and external purposes. These include both publications created for immediate public access and those created for university, school or departmental needs and not intended immediately for public access. Examples include the Badger yearbook, serial publications, newsletters, and reports. The Archives also holds a complete run of the two prominent student newspapers, the Daily Cardinal and the Badger Herald.

Distinguished faculty, staff, alumni personal and professional materials

The Archives collects materials from faculty, staff, and alumni who made major contributions to their discipline and/or to the university. These collections often contain personal and professional correspondence, diaries, journals, biographical material, records of committees, literary manuscripts, speeches, lecture notes, syllabi, photographs, audio-visual materials, electronic and born digital records, among other items. We will accept a sampling of audio/video lectures on a case by case basis. Donor may be asked to make a case for us to accept more than just a sampling. See our faculty papers collecting guidelines for more information.

Organizational records

The Archives collects records created by students, faculty, staff, and alumni organizations. In addition, the Archives may collect records created by organizations whose members are affiliated with the University in some way through work, study, or general interest. Activities and shared interests create and enhance the social and cultural network of the University community and foster relationships through organizations, groups, and clubs. Evidence of these organizations most often is found in their records.

Collecting groups may include:

  • Student clubs and organizations
  • Alumni clubs and organizations
  • Current or retired staff clubs and organizations
  • Community organizations working with the UW-Madison

Oral History Program

Within its nearly 5,000 hours of audio recordings, the collections’ strengths lie in special projects, covering subjects such as the Teaching Assistants Strike of 1970, the UW Merger, the Arboretum, and printmaking at the UW since World War II, as well as in significant historical themes like the Depression, the return of the GIs after World War II, the protests against the Vietnam War, academic freedom, and gender and race issues. Additionally, the Oral History Program includes interviews with campus and community LGBTQ+ individuals, with students who attended UW-Madison during the Vietnam Era (1963-1974), and “campus life-histories” with long-time UW-Madison staff and faculty.

LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) Archive

The LGBTQ+ Archive contains oral histories, personal papers, photographs, ephemera and organizational records related to the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in Madison and Dane County. Collection materials include diaries, memorabilia from gay bars, organizational records, videos, poetry, electronic records, born digital content, and ephemera such as political signs and posters, t-shirts, buttons, newspapers, and magazines. Visit Madison’s LGBTQ Community site for more information.

Strengths and Focus

The strengths of the collections include the University’s administrative records, both the Chancellors and Presidents of the UW-Madison and  UW System administration; UW-Extension programs and services; history of Madison and other local geographical areas; Vietnam Era materials and photos (such as subject and department files, and student newspapers); agricultural research and discoveries; conservation movement in the papers and records of Aldo Leopold, the Arboretum, and the Center for Limnology; information about historical university buildings and landscapes through Jim Feldman’s extensive research files, landscape photos, and the Department of Facilities and Planning and Management records; and the papers and oral histories of notable University researchers and personnel.

What We Don’t Collect 

Below are the areas and resources that we either do not collect or are no longer collecting. Materials we do not accept generally fall into three broad categories: materials better suited to other repositories (noted in parentheticals), short-term or active records, and materials duplicative of our current holdings. On occasion, there may be types of electronic records or born digital content that we are unable to accept. Please consult with Archives staff prior to donating. Additionally, the Archives has a working arrangement with the Wisconsin Historical Society that it will not collect papers and records relating to the history of the State of Wisconsin or the City of Madison without prior consultation. Contact the UW-Madison Archives for more information at or 608-262-5629.

  • Non-university state records (Wisconsin Historical Society – WHS)
  • Local history collections (WHS)exception: we do collect Dane County LGBTQ+ materials
  • Rare books (Special Collections)
  • Student files such as: transcripts, registration records, grades, degrees earned, etc. (Office of the Registrar)
  • Personnel files of employees (Office of Human Resources)
  • Raw electronic big research data (Research Data Services)
  • State records that have not yet met their disposition according to their approved records schedule  for short-term and/or inactive storage (State Records Center)
  • More than three duplicate copies of most serial publications and other items (determined on a case by case basis). As of 2018, we no longer need copies of the Badger yearbook. 
  • Human and animal remains
  • Plaques, awards, and trophies
  • Materials from minors without explicit written consent from a parent and/or legal guardian 
  • Large items that are better suited for museum displays
  • Materials exhibiting mold or exposure to rodents/pests 
  • Severely damaged or extremely fragile items
  • Material unrelated to the University outside of our collecting areas
  • Materials to which access is restricted in perpetuity or for a period of time deemed by the University Archives staff to be beyond a reasonable limitation


Deaccessioning is an essential function and tool of collection development and curation. Material selected to be deaccessioned may be returned to the donor (based on donor agreements), gifted/transferred to a more appropriate repository, or discarded. In identifying materials for deaccessioning (whether organized and described or not) the Archives staff considers the following:

  • Does the material in question fall within the scope of our collection development policy and collecting practices?
  • Has the material deteriorated in such a way that it cannot be reproduced or is beyond being useful due to its condition? 
  • Have the materials been subjected to poor environmental conditions, resulting in mold, water damage, fire damage, or show evidence of being exposed to rodents/pests?  
  • Do any established externally imposed restrictions such as records retention schedules, disposition authorizations, or donor agreements apply to the material?

There are various methods we use to deaccession electronic and born digital records. Please consult an Archives staff member for details.