Utah State Archives and Historical Records

Sonny Dulfo General Retention Schedules, Records Management Leave a Comment

Does the Utah State Archives destroy historical records?

There seems to be a pervasive rumor among governmental entities that the Utah State Archives and Records Service is in the business of microfilming and destroying permanent historic records. Let us set the record straight.

According to Utah State Archives Assistant Director, Jim Kichas: in the latter half of the 20th century, professional practice across the nation advocated for the microfilming and destroying of some records that took up massive amounts of (then precious) space.  Following national trends, the Utah State Archives made appraisal decisions on certain large-volume record collections that resulted in them being filmed and destroyed. The records themselves endure on microfilm held by the State Archives, but because of that past practice, we have learned that if you are going to make the decision to film and destroy something you had better be sure you are never going to need to see that paper copy again.

Today, with advances in digitization and a surplus of archival storage space it is the practice of the Utah State Archives to make active efforts to preserve the original copy as often as possible. According to Jim, rare circumstances might arise where a compelling case for digitizing a recordset and destroying the original copy might make sense, but today, more than ever, we prefer to preserve intrinsically valuable records in their original format whenever possible.

Currently, the Utah State Archives’ preservation process includes the option to reformat original records through microfilming and/or digitization.  The Utah State Archives work with different agencies according to their needs and provide access to records for research use in accordance with GRAMA law.  With this in mind, the Utah State Archives place a lot of value in what we do to preserve the historical records of Utah and adhere to approved retention schedules.[1]

What makes a record historical? 

In order to answer this question, we need to understand the appraisal process.  Appraisal means “determining the value and thus the disposition of records based on their current administrative, fiscal, and legal value; their evidential and informational value; their arrangement and condition; their intrinsic value; and their relationship to other records” (Utah State Archives Appraisal Policy).  Overall, there are four appraisal values: administrative, fiscal, legal, and historical.

What is historical value?  “Historical value deals with records of enduring historical or other value that warrants continued preservation of records beyond the period required to transact the business of their originating agency or its successor in function; also known as archival value.  Records determined to have archival value are designated in records disposition schedules as permanent records and transfer to archival custody” (Utah State Archives Appraisal Policy).  Furthermore, records of historical value are of either evidential value, informational value, or intrinsic value.

Why we do what we do.

  • Because we are Utah’s record-keeper and we accept records which are placed in the official custody of the State Archivist.[2]
  • Because we provide access to records insofar as use of the records is not restricted by law. These records are made available for public use in the State Archives’ History Research Center.  Aside from access, we also provide protection and control of the records.[3]

Are we destroying non-historical records?

In addition to the archival repository in Salt Lake City, the Utah State Archives provides a center for off-site storage of inactive records.  The law establishes a procedure for the storage and disposal of records at the State Records Center, located in Clearfield, Utah. [4]  Let’s look at the agency and archives’ responsibilities.

  • Records Storage and Disposal — Agency Responsibility[5]

(1) An agency may transfer semi-active records to the Records Center for storage.

(2) Prior to transfer, the agency must verify that the records have a State Archives record series number, an approved retention schedule, and have met all in-office retention requirements.

(3) Records stored in the State Records Center remain in the official custody of the agency that transferred them.

(4) In the event that an agency has not transferred records to the Records Center, it is the agency’s responsibility to manage, maintain, and destroy records in its custody in accordance with the records series’ approved retention schedule and to document the records destruction.

  • Records Storage and Disposal — Archives Responsibility[6]

(1) The State Records Center stores semi-active records in accordance with the agencies’ approved retention schedule.

(2) The State Archives destroys records stored at the Records Center in accordance with the approved retention schedule and upon authorization from the creating agency. If the creating agency does not respond to the second request for authorized destruction within ninety (90) days, the records may be returned to the agency. In the event that a record has met its scheduled retention requirements and the Records Center is unable to locate an authorized agency to provide destruction approval, or the agency is obsolete, the records will become the official property of the Utah State Archives and the State Archivist will determine the disposition of the records.

You can trust the Utah State Archives.

Because the mission of the Utah State Archives is to “assist Utah government agencies in the efficient management of their records, to preserve those records of enduring value, and to provide quality access to public information.” [7]

Because we, together with all records officers in Utah, are committed to providing “care, maintenance, scheduling, disposal, classification, designation, access, and preservation of records.”[8]

Because we love it when you care about records enough to be concerned about whether they get destroyed.

                                                                                                                                         

All in all, no records are destroyed contrary to an approved retention schedule.  We have a huge undertaking; nevertheless, we know that records matter because they encompass the essential evidence of Utah’s historical, administrative, fiscal, and legal experience.

Footnotes

[1] Utah Code § 63G-2-502 (2018). https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title63G/Chapter2/63G-2-S502.html?v=C63G-2-S502_2018050820180508

[2] Utah Code § 63A-12-101 (2010). https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title63A/Chapter12/63A-12-S101.html?v=C63A-12-S101_1800010118000101

[3] Utah Code § 63A-12-101 (2010). https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title63A/Chapter12/63A-12-S101.html?v=C63A-12-S101_1800010118000101

[4] Utah Code § 63A-12-104 (2008). https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title63A/Chapter12/63A-12-S104.html?v=C63A-12-S104_1800010118000101

[5] Utah Admin. Code R17-6-3 (2018). https://rules.utah.gov/publicat/code/r017/r017-006.htm

[6] Utah Admin. Code R17-6-2 (2018). https://rules.utah.gov/publicat/code/r017/r017-006.htm

[7]”About the Archives,” Utah State Archives and Records Service, https://archives.utah.gov/service-plan.html

[8]”Records & Information Management,” Utah State Archives and Records Service, https://archives.utah.gov/reformatting/index.html

 

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