Every school or college with which we work seems to have a "missing chapter" in their data collection and records history. When we begin working on a research or consulting assignment with a client, we often seek a large amount of initial data to get up to speed and learn about the context and operations of the organization. Invariably, we start looking back and analyzing information and records and find that there is a distinct period of time in the history of the school or college where records were not kept. This typically includes alumni or enrollment records for a five or ten year period, or even longer, where there are literally no records to review.
Of course, there are all sorts of challenges that emerge with missing data. The problem is usually traced back to a person or staffer that did not keep records. Or, it could be due to a poor information management system. And, often it is isolated to a particular decade or time in history that stakeholders (students, alumni, or other groups) become less connected with the organization in time as a result of little to no ongoing communication.
Most schools or colleges have a missing chapter in their history. The challenge is working through the obstacles that they represent. This means finding new ways of gathering old data. It could mean finding lost alumni through social media or other relational marketing. And, what it mostly means is creating long term systems for the future that never allow it to happen again.