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Historical Records

Historical records, also called archival records, are records that are kept permanently because of their long-term research use. Records do not need to be old to be archival. What makes a record worthy of permanent retention and preservation is the continuing importance of the information it contains. Historical records may exist in a variety of different formats, such as paper, digital, audio, video, film, or microfilm. 

Identifying historical records 

Image.  Archivist browsing records in stacks
The process of determining which records are historical is called appraisal. The State Archives is responsible for appraising state agency and local government records. Records found to have enduring historical or other value are designated as “permanent” and “transfer to State Archives” in the State Archives' local government and state agency records retention and disposition schedules respectively. Other record series which may have historical or research significance in some local governments but not in others have an appraisal note within the retention schedule to encourage local officials to evaluate the records to determine their importance prior to disposition. 

State agency and local government officials are critical in making State Archives staff aware of new, potentially historical records that are not covered under existing retention schedules. State Archives' staff can also advise and assist local officials who are appraising records for potential long-term research value.  

For information about the appraisal of government records, see appraisal page or contact us at (518) 474-6926 or via email at  

Preserving and making available historical records 

The State Archives is responsible for preserving and making available historical records of State government to the public. State agency records that State Archives staff have appraised as permanent and are designated as “transfer to State Archives” on the State General Schedule or agency-specific retention schedule should be transferred to the Archives. Refer to Information about preparing archival records for transfer.  For more information about our Research Room, researcher services, and our records access policy, refer to Researcher Services.  
Local governments are responsible for preserving and making available historical records of their government to the public. Local officials should familiarize themselves with the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and other laws that govern access to records. For information about managing archival records, see Archives Management (in particular the “preservation” and “access and programs” sections). Local governments interested in improving their environmental conditions, storage, handling and security for their permanent records are eligible for free Preservation Surveys from the Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York



You can find more information about Historical Records in the following workshops:

Additional Resources

Committee on Open Government oversees and advises on provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOIL) and Personal Privacy Protection Laws.