Creating and handling permanent records

The purpose of this advice is to inform agencies about the recommended practices for creating and maintaining records that will be retained permanently.

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Explanatory information

Permanent records have long-term value as evidence of the activities of government.

Permanent records will be eventually transferred to the NT Archives Service and become part of the Territory Archives. They have value for research by the public and future generations beyond the immediate business needs of the public sector organisation that created them.

These records must be stored and handled appropriately to ensure their preservation.

Care in the storage and handling of permanent records has ramifications beyond the immediate needs of the creating organisation.

Public sector organisations can provide the best opportunity for preserving their permanent records if they apply basic principles such as:

  • using good quality materials for creating the records (for example, archival paper)
  • storing permanent records in a stable, safe, secure location
  • handling records carefully.

Materials

  • Archival paper should be used to create permanent records. The use of coloured paper should be avoided. Records created on thermal paper should be copied onto archival paper.
  • Non-rusting paper fasteners such as plastic should be used. Avoid using corrosive metal fasteners, staples, and plastic coated paper clips.
  • Non water soluble inks should be used such as biro (preferably blue or black). Avoid pens with water soluble ink (such as roller ball pens). The ink used in bubble jet printing is water soluble and should be avoided when creating permanent records.
  • Non adhesive methods of flagging records should be used, such as plain paper flags. The use of post-it notes on records should be avoided, particularly on areas on the record that record information.
  • Adhesive tape or sticky tape, lamination and other temporary repair measures should not be used, as they will permanently damage the records.

Storage

  • Permanent records should be physically located away from environmental risk areas, such as flood zones, and away from industrial risk areas such as manufacturing sites and fuel depots.
  • Records storage areas should be regularly inspected for signs of insects, mould and pollutants, and treated on a regular basis if necessary.
  • Records storage areas should be cleaned on a regular basis, (preferably weekly) to ensure removal of dust and debris that attract insects and vermin.
  • Records storage areas should be well maintained and repairs conducted promptly.
  • Permanent records should be stored at the temperature and humidity levels suitable for their format.
  • Permanent records should be stored away from direct sunlight and other ultraviolet light sources.
  • Records should be stored on shelves, not on the floor. Boxes of records should not be stored on top of each other due to the damage caused by the weight of the full box on the records underneath.
  • Records should be stored 85 to 150 mm above the floor to reduce risk of flood damage.
  • Records should not be stored on the top of shelving.
  • Shelving should be in good repair (preferably powder coated metal), with no evidence of rust or damage.
  • Containers and packaging materials for the records (the containers, boxes, file folders and wallets in which the permanent records are kept) should be chemically inert, durable, and of a structure and size to ensure protection of the material from damage caused by handling and storage. For further advice on recommended materials contact the NT Archives Service.
  • Packaging should be in good condition and be replaced if it becomes damaged.
  • Photographs, negatives and film should be stored in containers that meet the Photographic Activity Test.
  • Small to medium volumes should be stored upright or, if in boxes, resting on their spines.
    Large volumes should be laid flat on their sides. Stacking volumes on top of each other should be avoided.

Handling

  • When handling records, hands should be clean and free of hand and barrier creams, foodstuffs, etc.
  • Food and drink should not be consumed or stored near permanent records.

Disaster measures

  • Disaster prevention and recovery plans should be implemented and maintained that identify permanent records as a priority.
  • Any identified risks to the records should be removed or mitigated.
  • Fire suppressant sprinkler systems should be in place, maintained and tested regularly.
  • In the event of any disaster affecting the records, the NT Archives Service should be advised as soon as practicable.

More information

The NT Archives Service is responsible for developing, managing and implementing Records Management Standards for the NT Government. The regulatory basis for records management is the Information Act 2002, Part 9 - Records and Archives Management.

For further information please contact:

NT Archives Service
Department of Arts and Museums
Email: nt.archives@nt.gov.au

Last updated: 29 July 2019

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