Why and How to Archive Your Company

Barbara Weltman

You don’t have to be a professional librarian or historian to keep a record of activities in your business over the years. Taking the time to put an archive together and maintain it can prove helpful to your company.

Importance of a business history
Family-owned businesses may have legends passed from generation to generation about events in the life of a company; oral histories may or may not be factually correct. But whether your business is family-owned or not, you can benefit from putting key information in writing and preserving it. You can use your archive to…


  • Obtain information useful in publicity (e.g., when the company was founded and by whom, and how things have developed over time).
  • Inform new employees about the history of your company to give them a sense of belonging.
  • Retrieve necessary information in the event of legal actions.
  • Track trends and developments affecting your industry.

Creating a record
Write a history of your business, no matter how short a time you may have been in operation. Note why the business was formed, what contributed to its success (or difficulties), what changes have occurred and whether the business has played any special role in the community in which you are located.

Supplement your written description by archiving important materials. Obviously, you need to save many items for legal purposes, such as patents, minutes of meetings, and the general ledger. But there are a number of other items that may someday be of historic interest, such as:


  • Advertisements

  • Architectural drawings

  • Awards and citations

  • Contracts no longer in use

  • Correspondence (not every letter, but special ones such as those from a famous individual or correspondence resolving an important question)

  • Journals and diaries

  • Licenses

  • Memorabilia (items with the company logo, such as refrigerator magents, pens, T-shirts and baseball caps)

  • Newspaper clippings about the company

  • Personnel records

  • Photos of the company premises, employee outings and other events

Resources:For an introduction to archiving and links to helpful sites, go to the Getty Information Institute at www.schistory.org/getty.

Keeping your records safe
Like any papers you want to preserve, your company’s history should be kept in a low-humidity place away from direct sunlight and the possibility of water damage. When possible, use acid free folders and boxes.

If your business has an interesting or important history, consider transferring your historical and related papers to a repository that can keep them safe. Your local library, university or town historical society may accept a contribution of your documents and preserve them for you.

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