Happy 85th Anniversary, University Archives!

William Watts Folwell, undated, available at http://purl.umn.edu/81754.
William Watts Folwell, undated, available at http://purl.umn.edu/81754.

On January 6, 1928, former President William Watts Folwell appeared before the Board of Regents and shared a piece of correspondence he had written to then President Lotus Coffman dated December 31, 1927.

Folwell wrote:

I beg leave to suggest for your consideration the establishment of University Archives. I have lately had occasion to turn over early minutes of the Board of Regents, and have noted mention of reports and other documents “placed on file” but have not discovered any office or place of filing. Some of them may have been utterly lost.

I do not need to impress on you the importance of collecting documents which have gone into history and all publications in all branches of the University… so that they may be found as easily as books in the library. 

Dr. Folwell then submitted the following resolution:

That archives of the University are hereby established in the general library to be conducted according to the best practice, and that the librarian of the University is designated as archivist.

The Board of Regents unanimously approved the resolution.

Today, the University of Minnesota Archives continues to preserve the “historically valuable documentation of University units and individuals, including faculty, staff, and administrators” according to our mandated mission in Board of Regents’ policy.

The University Archives holds over 1,500 unique collections of administrative records, University publications, and faculty papers totaling nearly 18,000 linear feet of material. In 2012 University Archives staff recorded nearly 500 daily visits and responded to over 2,500 email and telephone inquiries.

In addition, the University Archives preserves and makes available the digital scholarly and institutional content created at the University that would have traditionally have come to the archives in paper format via the University Digital Conservancy. The nearly 30,000 and growing digital files have been downloaded over 2 million times.

This capacity would certainly exceed Folwell’s desire to make the archival material as easily findable “as books in a library.”


—Erik Moore is the University Archivist and Co-Director of the University Digital Conservancy. To learn more about the University of Minnesota Archives, please visit www.lib.umn.edu/uarchives.


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