Storage and Preservation
Store your records safely and securely from the moment you create them. Develop a recordkeeping system that will keep records secure, protect them from alteration or damage, and allow easy access with less wear-and-tear. If you are designing an electronic system, use non-proprietary products, implement virus and password protection, and plan for software and hardware obsolescence.
Less is better
Reduce as much as possible the number of duplicate copies of a single record. You need to maintain only one copy: the official or record copy. By doing so, you will not waste space. If you are from a state agency or local government, regularly dispose of obsolete records according to a State Archives records schedule.
Consider microfilming or scanning your records. Microfilming is a still good way to reduce storage requirements and preserve historical records. Imaging is better for improving access to records. For more information about micrographics and imaging, especially when each is an appropriate solution, refer to our Publication #77, Managing Imaging and Micrographics Projects.
Onsite storage or offsite storage
Once you no longer actively use records, it's best to transfer them from busy, crowded office areas to alternative storage. You can use commercial or remote records storage facilities if onsite space is at a premium. For more guidance on storing records offsite, see our Publication #42, Offsite Storage of Inactive Local Government Records. The Archives maintains a list of vendors who store micrographic records. If you are from a state agency, you can store records at the New York State Archives Records Center on the State Office Campus in Albany. Read our advisory on Using a Data Storage Vendor to learn more about the issues involved in handing over custody and control of data to a vendor or to some other government or agency.
Proper storage environment
Choose a clean, secure, and stable environment. Ideal conditions for most types of record formats include:
- Temperature between 65-70º F, with fluctuations of no more than 2 degrees
- Relative humidity at 35-45%, with fluctuations of no more than 5%
- Protection from ultraviolet (UV) light, air pollutants, and vermin
- Protection from damage, disaster (i.e., water, fire), and theft
Limit access to storage areas, have secure locks, and install fire suppression and security systems. To assess how vulnerable the areas where you store records are to disasters, conduct a site assessment (see guidelines and form in our Publication #82, Managing Records Disasters).
Keep in mind that electronic media, including optical discs and computer tape, are not permanent storage media. You will periodically need to test media to ensure that no data has been lost, refresh or copy records onto new media, and ensure that you have the required equipment to access the records. Refer to our electronic records page.
Transferring archival state agency records to the State Archives
State agency records that State Archives staff have appraised as permanent may be transferred to the Archives. For more information about transferring state agency records, call (518) 474-6926 or email RECMGMT@mail.nysed.gov. The State Archives will not accept state agency records without prior consultation and approval.
Preservation vs. conservation
Preservation means working to prevent the deterioration of your historical records as a whole: use appropriate archival quality supplies and optimum environmental conditions for storage. For a thorough overview, attend our Preservation of Historical Records and Preservation of Electronic Records workshops.
Conservation involves hiring professional conservator to repair damage that has already occurred using minimal, non-invasive techniques. To help you decide what records are appropriate for conservation measures, see our Publication #60, Criteria for Selecting Records for Conservation Treatment and our list of conservation consultants.
The State Archives offers a grant program for local governments to implement many of the storage and preservation activities described above. To learn more about our Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund grant program, contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926 or via email at RECMGMT@mail.nysed.gov, or contact your Regional Advisory Officer.