Transferring or Destroying Records

The Smithsonian Institution Archives facilitates the transfer of permanent and temporary records from Smithsonian Institution museums and other units to either the Archives or the Records Center. Permanent records are retained by the Archives in perpetuity, while temporary records are maintained at the Records Center for a scheduled period of time before being destroyed. Transferring units must follow a series of steps before the transfer or destruction of records can occur. These procedures apply to most transfers of records, but different instructions may be warranted for unusual circumstances such as oversized or undersized materials, as well as for other non-paper media or electronic records. In such circumstances contact the Archives. For definitions of commonly used archival terms consult the glossary.

Transferring Permanent Records to the Archives

Smithsonian museums and units must follow these instructions when transferring permanent records to the Archives. The instructions apply both to units in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and to units outside of the area.

Step 1 

Consult the Smithsonian-wide or appropriate unit-specific (staff only) records disposition schedule. If the records are not covered by the schedule, follow the instructions for Appraising Records.

Step 2

Request a supply of acid-free boxes. For units outside of the Washington, DC metropolitan area, mailing labels can be requested from the Archives liaison. Mailing boxes are not provided for units outside of the Washington, DC area. The Archives liaison may refer requests to transfer electronic records to the Digital Services Division.

 

Step 3

Place records, in order, in the Archives boxes. All records must be in labeled file folders. Be sure to remove materials from hanging folders, binders, envelopes, and comb bindings, and to remove binder clips from the records. For guidance on how to build the Archives box consult the video demonstration.

 

Step 4

Create a list of the folder titles in each box. Be sure that the list matches the order of the folders in the boxes.

 

Step 5 

Email the list of folder titles to the Archives liaison and schedule a time to pick-up the records. If the records are being shipped, be sure to securely pack and tape close the boxes.

Step 6 

The Archives liaison will come to pick up the records, or will acknowledge that shipped records have been received.

Final Step

The Archives will process, preserve, and make available the records. In most cases, a description and finding aid of the collection will be available on the Archives website. An acknowledgment memorandum will be sent to the transferring unit, which will include the accession number for the materials, terms governing access to the materials, and instructions on how to access the records.

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Transferring Temporary Records to the Records Center for Destruction

Records identified for discard in general or specific records disposition schedules may be disposed of on-site without any further consultation with the Archives. Note that records bearing sensitive and/or personally identifiable information (e.g., Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, home addresses), should be destroyed by shredding. If it is not practical to shred records with sensitive information on-site, they may be transferred to the Records Center for destruction.

Electronic records containing sensitive and/or personally identifiable information may  be sent either to Records Center or directly to the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) for destruction, in accordance with established OCIO guidelines for the destruction of sensitive media documented in IT-960-TN15 Disposal of Electronic Media (staff only).

Paper or electronic records that are no longer actively being used, but have not reached their destruction date, can be sent to the Records Center for storage until their scheduled destruction date.

Smithsonian museums and units must follow these instructions when transferring temporary records to the Records Center. The instructions apply both to units in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and to units outside of the area.

Step 1

Consult the Smithsonian-wide or appropriate unit-specific (staff only) records disposition schedule. If the records are not covered by the schedule, follow the instructions for Appraising Records

Step 2

If the records are appraised as being temporary, request a supply of Records Center boxes from the Archives. For units outside of the Washington, DC metropolitan area, mailing labels can be requested from the Archives liaison. Mailing boxes are not provided for units outside of the Washington, DC area.

Step 3

Place materials in Records Center boxes. Records may be left in binders, hanging files, envelopes, or binder clips. DO NOT place personal material or non-Smithsonian records in the boxes. Creating a list of general contents and a date span of each box is recommended but not required. If it is likely that access to a specific folder may be necessary prior to destruction, creating a folder list for each box is recommended.

Step 4

Contact the Archives to schedule a time to pick up the records. If the records are being shipped, be sure to securely pack and tape close the boxes.

 

Step 5

The Archives liaison will come to pick up the records, or acknowledge that shipped records have been received.


Final Step

The Archives will send an acknowledgment memorandum to the transferring unit with an identification number for the transferred records and a scheduled destruction date.

Any records transferred to the Records Center for temporary storage will be maintained until the scheduled date of destruction. Units will be notified after the destruction has taken place, unless otherwise instructed. Units should notify the Archives immediately of any possible or pending investigations or legal actions that might bear upon the records. This includes any investigations or legal actions to which an office is only a third party. Upon notification, the Archives will immediately suspend the destruction of any records that may be considered useful to investigative or court proceedings.

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