Appraising Records


All records maintained by Smithsonian Institution museums and units, regardless of their format, must be appraised by the Smithsonian Institution Archives before they can be discarded, destroyed, or transferred to the Archives or the Records Center. For detailed information regarding the Archives’ appraisal decision-making process, see the Appraisal Methodology. The following steps provide guidance on how to get records appraised by the Archives. For definitions of commonly used archival terms consult the glossary.

Appraising Research Records provides additional information regarding factors that govern the ultimate disposition of research records.

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Step 1

Consult the Smithsonian-wide or appropriate unit-specific (staff only) records disposition schedule. Find the appropriate record series in the schedule and follow the disposition information. If the records are covered by the schedule, go to Transferring or Destroying Records. If the records are not covered by the schedule, proceed to Step 2.

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Step 2

If the Archives has previously appraised the same type of record, you may follow the same guidance and go to Transferring or Destroying Records. If the Archives has not provided guidance previously, contact the Archives.

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Step 3

The Archives liaison will appraise the records either by phone, email, or in person. The appraisal involves assessing the types of records, their function, the creator of the records, and if the records are duplicated elsewhere.

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Step 4

The records will be appraised as either being permanent or temporary based upon a combination of factors including historical value, research potential, legal requirements, precedence, and duplication elsewhere.

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Step 5

Permanent records can be transferred to the Archives. Temporary records can be transferred to the Records Center for scheduled destruction.