Transferring Electronic Records to the California State Archives

Electronic records are bound by the same legal requirements as paper documents.  An agency’s retention schedule should reflect any electronic records produced by the agency, and they should undergo the same evaluations as paper documents for retention and disposition. As part of the schedule review by CalRIM and SRAP electronic records bearing administrative, legal, and historical value may be “flagged” for transfer to the Archives. At the end of their retention period flagged records must be transferred to the State Archives, in accordance with California state law: 

A record shall not be destroyed or otherwise disposed of by an agency of the state, unless it is determined by the Secretary of State that the record has no further administrative, legal, or fiscal value and the Secretary of State has determined that the record is inappropriate for preservation in the State Archives. (Source: California State Records Management Act, Government Code Sections 12270-12279)

Electronic records come in a variety of formats and record types and may include textual data (word processed, formatted, and unformatted or (plain) text), structured data (databases, spreadsheets), email, computer-aided design (CAD) files, digital audio, digital moving images, digital still images, geospatial data, presentation files, and web records. Because of this variety, electronic records require special considerations prior to transfer.

Preparing Electronic Records for Transfer

A successful electronic records transfer requires the coordination of the agency’s records managers and IT, and the staff at the State Archives. When transferring electronic records, the following should be considered and discussed with the parties involved to ensure an effective records transfer:

Have records reached the end of their retention period?

Are record series appropriately identified?

Have the file formats been identified?

What is the number of records being transferred?

What is the volume of the records? (in terabytes, gigabytes)

Do any access restrictions apply to the records?

What metadata is included with the records?

Have files been vetted for encryption and, if any encrypted files exist, is there a means of decryption transmitted with the file?

What is the method for transmission? (A secure File Transfer Protocol or portable device?)

File Formats for Transfer

Some file formats are more desirable for long-term preservation than others.  For example, a Microsoft Word document is more vulnerable to obsolescence than a PDF/A file and is not ideal for ensuring long-term access.  Consulting with your IT department and staff at the State Archives can help establish the appropriate format for files pending transfer.