Preserving Email Messages of Enduring Value

During the Spring and Summer of 2013, the University Archivists and the Records and Information Management Services (RIMS) office engaged in discussions with many individuals and groups across the University regarding the need to establish practices of preserving the history of the University represented by email communications. Based on lively discussions and some very thoughtful feedback, a more structured project was initiated to develop recommendations for what will be a digital archival repository for email messages of enduring value. The project gathered even more feedback and began to define requirements for developing a digital archival repository. In the fall of 2014, the Analysis Phase of the project was completed and a Pilot Phase began.


The purpose of this project is to provide a path forward for the preservation of email correspondence having enduring value to the University. The primary goal of the Pilot Phase is to establish and test a Digital Archival Repository including ingest mechanisms that will appropriately manage email messages for the University identified as having enduring value.

In Scope

The Pilot Phase will:

  1. Establish mechanisms for ingesting email messages identified as having enduring value into a Digital Archival Repository;
  2. Identify mechanisms for filtering and sorting email messages according to sensitivity or access restriction requirements;
  3. Conduct tests of ingest with selected Digital Archival Repository options and recommend the best path forward for full implementation in a future phase; and
  4. Recommend a framework for sustainable management of email messages having enduring value both for use by researchers and for use by administrators.

Not In Scope

The project will not attempt to address the broader issue of digital archival repositories for other records; however, it can be used as additional input for a broader discussion.

Project Documents

Preserving Email Project Plan

Non-Record Email Messages

Tools Comparison Chart

Summary Feedback from Stakeholders

FY14 Analysis Phase Report

Letter of support from President Easter

FY15 Pilot Phase Status Report

FY16 Status Report

The archivists have created a document that provides a summary of frequently asked questions and responses arising from preliminary discussions about RIMS Communication 001.

Next Steps

October 2016-September 2019: Evaluate active machine learning tools in collaboration with the Illinois State Archives as part of the Processing Capstone Email Using Predictive Coding project with support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.