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Archival Records

Archival records are records that governments must keep permanently to meet fiscal, legal, or administrative needs of the government or which the government retains because they contain historically significant information. Records do not have to be old to be archival; local officials create and use archival records daily in offices. What makes a record worthy of permanent retention and special management is the continuing importance of the information it contains.

When the State Archives has determined that a record series has enduring historical or other research significance for all local governments, the series has been given a PERMANENT designation on the Schedule. Other record series which may have historical or research significance in some local governments but not in others have an appraisal note to encourage local officials to evaluate the records to determine their importance prior to disposition. However, the State Archives cannot identify all record series with historical or research significance for individual local governments. Knowledge of people, places, or events in each community and the unique circumstances of each government will determine which records are significant. Local officials will need to appraise records with nonpermanent retention periods for potential research or historical value before destroying them.

The usefulness of archival records depends on the government's ability to preserve them, retrieve the information they contain, and make that information available to staff and researchers. Further information on managing archival records is provided in the State Archives' Publication, Fundamentals of Managing Local Government Archival Records.

Appraising Records for Historical or Research Significance

Some items in this Schedule contain an appraisal note, e.g., “appraise for historical value.” A local government record has historical or other research importance if it provides significant evidence of how the government functions and/or if it provides significant information about people, places or events that involve the government. Since each community has its own unique history, the importance or value of a record series may vary from local government to local government.

Because local governments are continually involved in the lives of people, their records may contain a tremendous amount of information about the people who live there, the buildings and sites within their borders, and the important time periods or significant events that affected the people of the region. Government records can reveal information about what people owned; about attitudes, values and concerns of the citizens; about how the construction of a new highway led to the end of a neighborhood; or about how a community reacted to a military base closing. The records may contain information about the people, places or events themselves or about the decisions made in relation to them. This information can be very valuable to staff, researchers, and the public, but only if the information itself is significant. The records must contain enough information to adequately document the people, places, or events recorded. The significance of the records will depend on:

  • When the records were created: records created during a time of momentous change, which are scarce or which cover a long period of time tend to be more significant.
  • What kind of information the records contain: records that contain more in-depth information are more likely to have enduring value.
  • Who created the records: records that reflect an employee's perspective or individual point of view may be more significant.
  • What other records exist: if the information in the records exists in other records within the local government or elsewhere in the state or country, then the records are less likely to be significant.
  • The unique history of the local government or community: records created during important time periods or events can provide clues to how the events affected the development of the government and the community it serves.

The historical or other research importance of records will vary from local government to local government and from region to region. The people, places, or events in each community, and the unique circumstances of each government, determine which records are significant. Further information on identifying historically significant records is provided in the State Archives' Publication, Appraisal of Local Government Records for Historical Value. State Archives' staff can also advise and assist local officials who are appraising records for potential long-term research value.