MSU is leading the future by starting with its past.
MSU’s University Archives & Historical Collections is beginning to assemble a new system called Spartan Archive, which will aim to be one of the leaders in digital archives, or an archive in which the documents were originally in digital format.
The Spartan Archive will be a database of MSU’s digital records, some dating back as far as the 1970s. Because older digital documents can be in a variety of formats and difficult to open, Spartan Archives will put all documents on a similar, easy to access format.
Initially, the archives will hold 70,000 database records. The archives have one tetrabyte of space, and it will be expanded as necessary, said Cynthia A. Ghering, director of MSU’s University Archives & Historical Collections.
The archives will begin collecting three records from MSU’s Office of the Registrar, a catalog of academic programs, a description of courses offered each semester and the annual student directory. The archive eventually will move on to other departments with the end goal of archiving all official MSU records.
Having all files on one format will make it easier to update them should the format be replaced by a better one, said Ghering, who has been working on the project for the past two years.
“If we don’t preserve (the digital documents) now, it’s very easy to lose them,” Ghering said. “(The files) could get corrupted, the hard drive could die. … With electronic (files) we have to be thinking about it ahead of time. That’s why it’s so critical to do it now.”
The project is set to be one of the first digital archives and a “superb case study” for future databases, said Keith Donohue, a spokesman at the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. In April, the commission gave MSU a $251,000, three-year grant for funding the transition.
Although the grant will end in March 2013, the Spartan Archive project will be ongoing. Most of the grant will go toward hiring technical staff to change documents into a unified, updated format.
“Other universities and large institutions deal primarily with electronic records,” Donohue said. “Nowadays, instead of paper records, people come up with new ways, or archives, to preserve that information.”
Scott Owczarek, associate registrar at the Office of the Registrar, said the archives will be beneficial to the department by having all information in one place.
“I think the end use is we will have a consistent format and a consistent place to find all the archives for the institution,” Owczarek said. “It’s important for us to have that long record of everything we have done as an institution.”
Ghering said the archives are most important not for any current MSU group, but for the future ones.
“We are thinking about people 50 years down the road,” Ghering said. “We are saving it for the future.”