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Digital Records in Special Collections

Documentation of digital preservation efforts in UB Libraries Special Collections.
Last Updated: May 15, 2024 10:09 AM


Digital records provide documentary evidence in the same way that traditional paper-based records do. The nature of these records requires Special Collections to follow specific procedures that may differ from those used to transfer paper records. This checklist will guide donors through steps designed to gather as much information about the records as possible, to protect the authenticity of the records, and to ensure the success of the donation so that Special Collections can preserve and provide access to these historically valuable records. 

I. Donor Checklist

  • Be aware that simply viewing files can alter them.
  • Do not manipulate, rearrange, extract, copy, or otherwise alter digital records without first speaking to Special Collections staff.
  • Clarify expectations about the extent to which the digital materials will be preserved and made available for use.
  • Special Collections staff will ask you a series of questions to help them understand the scope of the collections. Be prepared to answer questions about:
    • Location of computer workstations (on campus or at home)
    • Removable storage media (hard drives, USB flash drives, CDs, etc.)
    • Approximate date range of files
    • File types
    • Approximate quantity

Manuscript collections that include twentieth and twenty-first century archival materials may contain sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state "right to privacy" laws, including but not limited to certain educational, medical, financial, criminal, attorney-client, and personnel records. Special Collections staff will review materials in the collection in an attempt to identify items that contain private information. Please indicate below your awareness of materials that may contain sensitive electronic information. Inform the repository if there is a possibility that the digital records include legally protected private files.

  • To the best of my knowledge, these materials do not contain private or sensitive information.
  • To the best of my knowledge, these materials are likely to contain private or sensitive information such as:
    • Social Security numbers
    • Passwords or PINS
    • Credit Card numbers
    • Financial records
    • Medical records
    • Other materials that have specific privacy concerns, please specify: _________________________________________________________________
  • Inform Special Collections if there is a possibility that the digital records include sensitive information about individuals other than the donor or creator.
  • Special Collections does not decrypt encrypted files or crack password protected files. Inform the repository of any files that may be inaccessible due to encryption of password protection.

Inform the repository if there is a possibility that the records include the intellectual property of people besides the creator or donor of the materials.

  • Be prepared to have ongoing communications with Special Collections during the capture and processing of digital materials.
  • Document the ways in which digital media and files have been stored, accessed, and transported prior to their arrival or collection by Special Collections.
  • Be prepared for copying and transfer to take time.
  • Clearly identify which born-digital materials are to be offered to Special Collections.
  • Indicate which file types are included in the donation:
  • Audio
  • Raster images
  • Databases
  • Raw Camera images
  • Email* (see additional information below)
  • Spreadsheets
  • Open Office
  • Vector images
  • Plain Text
  • Video
  • Portable Document Format
  • Word Processing files
  • Presentation files (i.e. PowerPoint)
  • Other: __________________________

The deed of gift acknowledges transfer of ownership to Special Collections.

  • Review the Deed of Gift with Special Collections staff
  • Transfer of copyright
  • Permission to make preservation and access copies
  • Permission to display online
  • Disposition of duplicate or unneeded materials
  • Disposition of computer hardware, removable media and files not retained
  • Sign the Deed of Gift and retain a copy (Special Collections retains the original).

II. Preparing Email for Donation

Special Collections accepts email archives in .pst (Outlook Data Files) and Mbox packages. These step by step instructions will guide donors through the process of exporting/downloading their email archives. Consult Special Collections staff before exporting email.

  • Be prepared to discuss the type of email client used currently and any previously used email clients (i.e. Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, Thunderbird, AOL, etc.).
  • Be prepared to discuss the organization of the emails and the date range covered in the emails.

Exporting the whole mailbox - Download an archive of your Gmail mailbox (as an MBOX file) using Google Takeout. [1]

  • Go to and sign in using the Google account associated with the mailbox to be exported.
  • Under "Control Your Content" click “Create an archive.”
  •  Uncheck all products except “Mail.”
  •  Click “CREATE ARCHIVE.” Once your request is submitted, you can feel free to log out and close the window. The archive creation process may take a few minutes or several hours depending on how much data is in your mailbox.
  •  After the archive is finished, you will receive an email with a link to download a .zip file containing your mail archive.

Exporting all messages with the same label - Use Google Takeout to download an archive of only messages assigned specific labels.

  • Go to and sign in using the Google account associated with the mailbox to be exported.
  • Under "Control Your Content" click “Create an archive.”
  • Uncheck all products except “Mail.”
  •  Click the dropdown icon to the left of “Mail” or click “Edit” to the right of “Mail.”
  • Click the bubble next to “Select labels,” then checkmark the labels you wish to export.
  • Click “Done.”
  • Click “CREATE ARCHIVE.” Once your request is submitted, you can feel free to log out and close the window. The archive creation process may take a few minutes or several hours depending on how much data is in your mailbox.
  • After the archive is finished, you will receive an email with a link to download a .zip file containing your mail archive.

Exporting individual emails - Save individual email threads as PDF files.

  • Open the message you want to save as a PDF.
  • Click the printer icon at the top of the message display.
  • In the menu where you can select your printer, select “Print to PDF” or “PDF printer” instead. (This step varies depending on your browser and operating system).
  • This should open up a familiar “Save” window in which you can save the message to your computer as a PDF file. 

[1] Instructions for Gmail, Outlook, Thunderbird, and AOL written by the University of North Carolina Libraries. "Exporting Email: A Guide." (n.d.) University of North Carolina Libraries. Web. 20 Apr. 2017. <>.

Exporting the whole mailbox, one folder, or a category of mail - There is more than one way to export email from a desktop installation of Outlook for Mac, but the following steps are the most reliable way to ensure that you export everything you want.

  • Click on File in the toolbar at the top of the screen.
  • Select Export.
  • Select Outlook for Mac Data File (.olm)
  • If you want to archive your entire body of email, select “Items of the following types” and choose “Mail.”
  • If you only want to archive one folder, you can assign that folder a category and choose “Items that are in the category” and then select the category that you assigned to that folder.
    • How to assign categories: (In the top menu bar, click Message > Categorize > Edit Categories
    • From here, you can add or rename the categories.
    •  Close out of the Edit Categories window.
    • From the Home tab in Outlook, click on the folder you want to categorize and select all the messages in the folder “Categorize,” then select the category you want to assign to that folder from the drop-down list.
    • Now the items in that folder should be categorized.
  • A window will appear and ask if you want to delete items from your Outlook folder after export. This is up to you. Click yes or no, then click the right arrow.
  • A window will appear that will allow you to choose a place to save your export. Save it somewhere on your computer where you will be able to find it again, or on a flash drive.
  • Click “Save,” then the window will close and you will see another window saying “Export Complete.” Click “Done” and the export will be complete.

Exporting individual emails

  • Right click on the email you want to export.
  • Select “Print.”
  • In the window that appears, click on the button that says “PDF” and choose “Save as PDF.”

A window will appear that will allow you to save the PDF wherever you choose. Choose a meaningful name for the file. Click “Save” and you have finished. 

  • Under “File,” click “Options.” Then select “Advanced.”
  • Under the “Export" header, click “Export.”
  • Select “Export to a File,” then “Outlook Data File (.pst).”
  • Choose the folder you wish to export. If you want to export the whole mailbox, select “Inbox.” If you want to export a single folder, select that folder. If you want to export multiple folders, go back to your mailbox, create a new folder and drag the folders you want to export into it.
  • Click “Next,” then click “Browse” to select where you want to save the PST file. Select the rule for duplicates that suits your preferences. Click “Finish.”
  • If you are transferring the PST file to the Archives, do not add a password. Just click “OK.”

Exporting individual emails

  • Select the email you want to export.
  • Click “File,” then “Save as.”
  • Choose the format in which you would like to save the message. Outlook Message format can be read only by Outlook, while Text Only and HTML can be opened in other applications.

Input your desired file name and choose where you would like to save the file, then click “Save.”

Exporting one or more mailboxes

  • Select one or more mailboxes, then choose Mailbox > Export Mailbox.
  • Choose a folder or create a new folder, then click Choose.
  • Mail exports the mailboxes as .mbox packages. If you previously exported a mailbox, Mail doesn’t overwrite the existing .mbox file; it creates a new .mbox file, such as My Mailbox 3.mbox.

Exporting a “profile”

  • Make sure that Thunderbird is closed.
  • Locate the profile folder. On Windows, it is located in
    C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles or in C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles. On a Mac, it is located in Library/Thunderbird/Profiles.
  • Right click the profile folder and select “Copy.”
  • Right click the drive or folder where you would like to store the profile copy and select “Paste.” 

There isn’t an option for exporting data from an AOL account to a PST or similar file. We recommend importing the AOL account into Outlook, then following the instructions for creating a PST file from Outlook.

Exporting to Outlook 2013 using IMAP (Via AOLHelp)

  • With Outlook open, click File in the upper-left.
  •  In the upper-middle part of the page that opens, click + Add Account.
  • In the lower-left part of the page, click Manual setup or additional server types. Then click Next.
  • Select "POP or IMAP." Then click Next.
  • Enter your Name and your Email address, and under "Server Information" click the down-arrow to select IMAP. (Not POP). 
    For Incoming mail server, write:
    For Outgoing mail server, write:
    Under Login Information, type your Username (your full AOL Mail address:, then enter your Password.
  • In the lower right, click More Settings.
  • In the "General" tab that opens, edit the name for this account if you want.
  • Click the Outgoing Server tab at the top, and check the box next to "My outgoing server (SMTP) requires authentication". Then select "Use same settings as my incoming mail server." 
  • At the bottom of the page, click OK.
  • In the lower-right corner, click Next.

You will now see a message in green that says "You're all set!" Click Finish in the lower right.

POP (Post Office Protocol) is one way to get Yahoo Mail in a desktop or mobile app. POP downloads copies of your email, so you can move and delete them in the app without affecting the original emails. [1]

POP settings for Yahoo Mail

Incoming Mail (POP) Server
Server -
Port - 995
Requires SSL - Yes
Outgoing Mail (SMTP) Server
Server -
Port - 465 or 587
Requires SSL - Yes
Requires TLS - Yes (if available)
Requires authentication - Yes

Your login info
Email address - Your full email address (
Password - Your account's password.
Requires authentication - Yes

Setup instructions and POP info

Instructions for common desktop apps

Here are links to common setup instructions. If any issues arise, you'll need to contact the app manufacturer for additional help.

Outlook 2007 or earlier
Outlook 2010
Outlook 2013 and 2016
Outlook Express
Windows Live Mail
Mac Mail for OSX

[1] Yahoo Mail. "POP Access Settings and Instructions for Yahoo Mail." Yahoo! Yahoo!, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2017. <>.

Export Lotus Notes Mail Files [1]

  • Open Lotus Notes Application.
  • Click the "Mail" tab.
  • Go to “File" option from the menu bar. 
  •  Then, Click "Export" option to start the "Export" wizard.
  • After the "Export" wizard starts, you will get several options to choose the format for the exported file from Lotus Notes.
  •  Choose "Tabular Text" or "Structured Text;" Both of these formats are supported by Outlook 
  • Click “Continue” to go through the export process. 
  • Click "Export" to end the wizard and export the mail file.

Import the exported mail file in Outlook

  • Open Microsoft Outlook application.
  • Go to “File" menu then, click "Import and Export option.
  • Click "Next" after the "Import and Export" wizard gets opened.
  • Choose the format you chose to export the file as. Either Choose "Comma Separated Values (Windows)" or "Tab Separated Values (Windows)."
  • Click "Next." 
  • Continue through the "Export" wizard, Select and Browse the file exported from Lotus Notes. 
  • Click "Finish."
  • Follow the Outlook instructions above.


[1] Lakai, Amanda. "Export Lotus Notes Mail Files to Outlook." Email Data Recovery. Email Data Recovery, 28 Oct. 2012. Web. 20 Apr. 2017. <>.

III. Transferring Digital Records

There are three options for transferring digital records to Special Collections. Discuss these options with Special Collections staff to determine the appropriate method.

  • Transfer digital records on removable storage media
    • Clearly label all removable media.
    • Seek guidelines from the repository for shipping of hardware of digital files.
    • Be prepared for the repository to retain the original digital media unless the Deed of Gift indicates otherwise.
  • On-campus transfer by Special Collections staff
    If donors and their workstations are located on the University at Buffalo’s campus, Special Collections staff may be able to coordinate in-person transfer of the digital records directly from the donor workstation.
  • Remote transfer by donor
    Special Collections staff will provide the donor with a desktop application called Upload Wizard to use when transferring their digital records. The Upload Wizard is a standalone Java desktop application that is used by record producers (donors) to submit content to the Special Collections digital preservation system. Detailed instructions are provided below.
  • Retain a copy of the donated digital records until Special Collections staff confirms successful receipt of the donation
  • As processing and description of the records begins, Special Collections staff may request additional information about the records and their creation