Transferring paper records

What records should be transferred?

There are a number of options for transferring the relevant records to the receiving organisation.

Transfer all information less than 20 years old

In order for organisations to fulfil their statutory responsibilities under the Public Records Act, they need to transfer all records worthy of permanent preservation to The National Archives no later than 20 years after the record was created.

If the transferring organisation has records that are older than 20 years, with the agreement of the receiving organisation, it could retain these records and carry out the process of appraisal and selection and transfer these to The National Archives following the usual process.

Transferring only the information less than 20 years old would ensure that the receiving organisation does not inherit a review backlog. It may also slightly reduce costs as fewer records will need to be handed over to the receiving organisation.

Conduct an early review and transfer only records of value to the receiving organisation

The transferring and receiving organisations could jointly carry out an early review of the paper records, taking into account business and long-term historical value, and statutory retention requirements. Existing retention/disposal schedules should also be referred to during this process.

This option may not be appropriate, however, if large numbers of files are to be transferred or there is only a short time to complete the transfer. It is the most resource-intensive option as staff time will be needed to carry out the review, added to the cost of disposal. However, if the volume of records to be transferred can be reduced, transfer, indexing and storage costs may be significantly lower over time.

Transfer all records regardless or age of value

If a machinery of government change has to happen very quickly then the decision may be made to transfer all paper records to the receiving department regardless of age or value. This is the simplest and quickest option but depending on the amount of material to be transferred, it could have substantial cost implications for both the transferring and receiving organisations. Also, if any of the records for transfer are over 20 years old, the receiving organisation may not wish to inherit records that could potentially put it in breach of the Public Records Act.

Find guidance on appraising and selecting records for permanent preservation.

Finding aids, reference material and metadata

The transferring department must ensure that all finding aids, reference material and metadata around the paper records are transferred along with the records. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • card indexes, docket books and other finding aids
  • retention/disposal information relating to records of the function
  • zero files
  • appraisal information, for example, selection criteria, information on past reviews
  • paper files relating to databases
  • printed guidance or manuals relevant to the function or relating to databases