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The Duke University Archives identifies and preserves administrative, fiscal, historical and legal records that have enduring value for the Duke community and makes those records available in accordance with policies approved by the university's administration, board of trustees and faculty.

Although the need for a university archives was recognized in the late 1940s, Duke University did not establish one until 1972. At that time Duke University President Terry Sanford established the Duke University Archives as the official repository for university records of enduring value. The Duke University Medical Center Archives was established in 1977 to manage the archival records of the Duke University Medical Center.

In 2002, after 30 years of operating as a department of the general administration, the Duke University Archives became part of the university's library system. In 2006, the University Archives merged with the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, now the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.