UCT Administrative Archives

02 March 2008

Keeping tabs on UCT: Lionel Smidt and Stephen Herandien keep UCT's administrative records on many, many files.

What are the Administrative Archives and where are they?

Administrative Archives are the source of UCT's background information. Situated in a hidden office in the Jules Kramer Law School Building in the middle campus, the section serves staff and others interested in university affairs with historical information, dating back many decades. Running the section are university archivist Lionel Smidt and assistant archivist Stephen Herandien.

When were they started and what do they do?

The section, which falls under the Office of the Registrar, was started in 1977 when the need arose to record UCT information safely. As a primary function, Archives keep any information such as staff details, correspondence and minutes of meetings. The earliest records in the Archives can be traced to 1928, and include Council and Senate Minutes. There is also secondary information such as handbooks, the history of the South African College from 1829 to 1918 written by Professor W Ritchie, and the formative years of 1918 to 1948 by Howard Phillips. The Talbot Map Collection is also housed in the Archives.

How do the Archives work?

According to Smidt, the information goes through three phases. First, he and his colleague check if the records of the file belong to the same department, and arrange them according to these groups.

Then an internal sorting will follow, in which the contents of the file are examined if they do match the file name. And, lastly, the officials write their own list of files to make it easy to control the information.

What is the process?

Normally records are transferred from an office to the archives after five years, but those that are consulted regularly may be kept in the original office even after that period. Smidt said they prefer transfers to be done annually or every two years. Inventory of the records must be kept in the original office and copies should be sent indicating the number of boxes, the covering dates of files and contact details of the sender. Once the incoming consignment has reached the Archives offices it is recorded in the incoming register and is immediately available for use.

How long are the records kept?

Some information is kept for a specific period of time and destroyed afterwards, while other items may be stored permanently. For instance, cheques are kept for five years and credit notes for six years. Records are being kept for the minimum required period, in accordance with the retention schedule. Once that period is over, expired records are identified, removed from the shelves and placed in recycling bags ready for collection. The amount of paper corrected is measured and recorded.

What is special in their collection?

The graduation programmes from 1918 to 1979 have been scanned and made available in electronic format, and the three original volumes have been sent to the restoration department. When restored, they will be returned to the Archives for permanent preservation.

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