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Retention and Disposition

Retaining Records

Records should be retained as long as they are needed by your organization to support business needs and to satisfy any legal and fiscal requirements and long-term historical or research use. In developing retention schedules, the State Archives reviews federal and state laws and regulations, audit requirements, the need for legal evidence, administrative needs, and historical or research value and establishes minimum retention periods based on this information. Records that are the subject of a legal action or audit must be retained for the entire period of the action or audit even if their retention period has passed.

Image.  Shredded paper documents and CDs

Disposing of Records

Disposition is the final action in the records lifecycle and occurs when a record satisfies its retention period as noted on a retention schedule. You can learn more in our publication, The Records Lifecycle.

Disposition means the disposal of a record by (1) destruction, (2) transfer to an archival repository, or (3) transfer to another government or organization.

  1. The Archives’ State Wastepaper Recycling Contract offers free and confidential paper records destruction for state agencies and local governments. Destruction of microfilm, computer tapes and disks, video tapes and other magnetic media are not covered under this contract. Contact the State Records Center,, for a list of vendors.
  2. Local governments are responsible for preservation of records marked as “permanent” in their retention schedules. State agency retention schedules indicate that records with long-term historical value must be transferred to the State Archives following the Procedures for Transferring Records to the New York State Archives. The Archives has appraised these records and determined that they have enduring historical value.
  3. Under limited circumstances, local governments and state agencies may transfer custody of their records to another organization or government through donation, loan, or deposit. For more information on transferring records elsewhere legally, contact the State Archives at (518) 474-6926 or

The key is to regularly carry out disposition, as indicated in your retention schedule and as part of your organization’s normal business practices, and to document this disposition. Documentation of disposition can protect your organization when it is unable to provide properly destroyed records in response to litigation, audits, or requests under FOIL. Organizations may use the State Archives’ sample records destruction authorization form; state agencies may save a copy of the records disposition notice received from the State Records Center.

Methods of Destruction

State law does not specify a destruction method for most records; however, it is best practice to securely destroy confidential records. Decisions regarding the method of destruction are usually left up to the organization. Various methods of destruction for paper and electronic records may be found in the publication, Retention and Disposition of Records: How Long to Keep Records and How to Destroy Them and on the Electronic Records webpage.


You can find more information about Retention and Disposition in the following workshops: