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Retention and Disposition

Frequently Asked Questions

Scheduling government records

A retention and disposition schedule is a plan of action that indicates the period of time you should retain your records. Records schedules allow you to dispose of records in a timely, systematic manner by setting retention and disposal guidelines based on administrative, legal, fiscal, or research needs.  To learn more see:


Disposition refers to the final decision about whether to dispose of records or keep records permanently. Disposition of records can mean either destruction of records, transfer of permanent or archival records to an archival repository, or transfer of records to another entity for continued retention.


In the local government retention schedules, the State Archives has determined certain series have sufficient historical value to warrant permanent retention. In other instances, some series have appraisal notes indicating local governments should decide whether certain records warrant permanent retention. For guidance on appraising records, see Publication #50, Appraisal of Local Government Records for Historical Value, and attend our Appraisal of Historical Records workshop.

The State Archives conducts appraisals of state agency records and these determinations are reflected in agency-specific retention items. Records cannot be sent to the Archives without prior consultation with and approval of State Archives staff. Please call (518) 474-6926 or contact us via email at for more information about the appraisal of state agency records.

Non-government historical records repositories should use their collecting policy as a basis for appraising records. For more information on developing a collecting policy, see our publication, Strengthening New York's Historical Records Programs, A Self-Study Guide.


Establish a formal procedure that ensures records are disposed of regularly. This will safeguard against accidental destruction of records that have not met their minimum retention periods or are needed for litigation, audits, or other investigations.

When records have been damaged by a disaster and are believed to constitute a hazard to human safety or health or to property or when the information contained within is substantially destroyed, a state agency or local government records management officer (RMO) may request authorization from the State Archives to destroy or dispose of such records immediately. For more information, see Requests for Early Destruction of Records.

State law does not require a specific disposal method for government or other records, though you need to ensure that confidential records are disposed of properly. Publication #41, Retention and Disposition of Records: How Long to Keep Records and How to Destroy Them, addresses the various options for destroying paper, microfilm, and electronic records. For shredding and recycling records, state agencies and local governments can take advantage of the State Records Center's Confidential Wastepaper Destruction and Recycling Contract.

Legally transferring custody of records

Local governments are required to retain ownership and ensure the preservation of their permanent records; state agencies must transfer to the State Archives the legal custody of their archival records when they are no longer needed onsite.  

Under limited circumstances, local governments and state agencies may transfer custody of their records to another organization or government through donation, loan, or deposit.

Donation refers to the permanent transfer of ownership and physical custody of records to another entity. Records may be donated only if they are non-permanent and have met the minimum retention period specified in the appropriate State Archives’ records retention and disposition schedule.

A loan transfers physical custody of records for a limited period of time for a specific purpose. The State Archives strongly recommends that loans have terms of no more than five years and include periodic, at most annual, reviews.

Deposit generally refers to an ongoing agreement to transfer the physical custody of records to somewhere outside of the direct control of a government or agency. Deposit agreements do not transfer ownership of the records. Reasons for a deposit arrangement are that the repository receiving the records can provide better storage, environmental controls, and access to the records. Deposit agreements require periodic review, in case of any change of circumstances affecting the deposit.

For more information on transferring records elsewhere legally, contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926 or via email at