Federal Records Management

Initiatives: Digital Geospatial Data Records

Expanding Acceptable Transfer Requirements: Transfer Instructions for Permanent Electronic Records

Issued April 09, 2004

ATTENTION!  This page has been superseded.  The information listed below is no longer accurate. For NARA's current guidance please visit www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/policy/transfer-guidance.html. Please note that this page is available only as a technical and historical reference. This site will eventually be removed.


As part of the Electronic Records Management (ERM) E-Gov Initiative to improve electronic records management in Federal agencies, and in cooperation with other Federal agencies, NARA is issuing guidance to supplement current requirements in 36 CFR 1228.270 for transferring permanent electronic records to NARA.

This guidance expands currently acceptable formats to enable the transfer of permanent digital geospatial data records created for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to NARA. The specific requirements below build upon the existing requirements for geospatial data records in 36 CFR 1228.270 (d) (3) and (e) (2), which are applicable where appropriate.


Geospatial data records from GIS are a priority electronic records format identified by NARA and partner agencies as part of the Electronic Records Management (ERM) initiative, one of the 24 E-Gov initiatives under the President's Management Agenda. A major goal of this initiative is to provide the tools for agencies to access electronic records for as long as required and to transfer permanent electronic records to NARA for preservation and future use by government and citizens.

Previously, NARA has worked with Federal agencies to develop and promulgate transfer guidance for four formats: (1) e-mail with attachments, (2) scanned images of textual records, (3) records in Portable Document Format (PDF), and (4) digital photographic records. For more information on NARA's E-Gov ERM Initiative and the completed products, please visit our web site at: http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/initiatives/erm-overview.html.

3.0   SCOPE

This guidance applies to digital geospatial data records (i.e., digital cartographic data files that may be processed in Geographic Information Systems) that have been appraised and scheduled for permanent retention at NARA. Excluded are fixed views of the data and other types of reports and output products created as paper maps, other non-digital formats, or fixed digital formats such as GeoTIFF images. NARA, in consultation with agencies, determines specific disposition instructions through the records scheduling process.

This guidance includes and expands on the transfer format requirement in 36 CFR 1228.270(d) (3) where NARA incorporates the Spatial Data Transfer Standard (SDTS) (Federal Information Processing Standard 173 and American National Standards Institute INCITS 320-1998) into its transfer format procedures. It also includes and expands on the metadata requirements in 36 CFR 1228.270(e) (2) where NARA incorporates the Federal Geographic Data Committee's (FGDC) Content Standards for Digital Geospatial Metadata, as specified in Executive Order 12906 of April 11, 1994 (3 CFR, 1995 Comp., p.882).


The requirements in this guidance are effective April 15, 2004.

NARA recognizes there are active efforts underway to modify two applicable standards, SDTS and the Geography Markup Language (GML). NARA may issue revised transfer instructions to incorporate revisions to applicable standards when appropriate.


NARA understands that legacy records and records whose disposition is changed from temporary to permanent may present unique circumstances for agencies. Any agency having permanent digital geospatial data records that do not meet the requirements in this guidance should contact the NARA appraisal archivist assigned to that agency (see section 7.0).

5.1   General Requirements

Those digital geospatial data records that are appraised as permanent must be scheduled for permanent retention and transfer to NARA on a Standard Form 115, Request for Records Disposition Authority (SF 115). The records must be organized as either a logical grouping of information or by agency records series.

5.2   Geospatial Data Standards

NARA will accept digital geospatial data records that fully implement a non-proprietary, published, open standard maintained by or for a Federal, national or international standards organization 1. Digital geospatial data records created and maintained in proprietary formats must be transferred to NARA in an acceptable geospatial data standard. Examples of acceptable geospatial data standards include, but are not limited to:

5.2.1   Spatial Data Transfer Standard (Federal Information Processing Standard 173 and American National Standards Institute INCITS 320-1998). This standard has been incorporated into 36 CFR 1228.270 (d) (3). (http://mcmcweb.er.usgs.gov/sdts/ and http://www.fgdc.gov/standards/status/textstatus.html).

5.2.2   Geography Markup Language, versions 2 and 3 (Open GIS Consortium). (http://www.opengis.org/docs/02-023r4.pdf).

5.3   Transfer Documentation

This guidance supplements transfer documentation requirements in 36 CFR 1228.270(e) to ensure that transfers of digital geospatial data records are clearly identified and described. For all such transfers, agencies must submit a signed Standard Form 258, Agreement to Transfer Records to the National Archives of the United States (SF 258), as required by 36 CFR 1228.272.

5.3.1   For each transfer, agencies must supplement the SF 258 with additional information identifying the standard and version to which the records adhere, the number of files in the transfer, the size (in bytes) of these files, and the logical arrangement of the files (e.g., by subject or date).

5.3.2   Agencies must provide descriptive and technical information about the records (i.e., metadata) 2. This metadata should be incorporated into the appropriate section within the approved transfer standard used to transfer the digital geospatial data records to NARA. The metadata must conform to a standard maintained by a Federal, national, or international body. For each transfer agencies must reference the standard(s) to which the data and metadata conform, including version and date, where applicable.

5.3.3   When metadata do not conform to a published standard, agencies must provide NARA a full description of the standard and the metadata used. Where the standard is not maintained by a national or international body (i.e., agency specific), a copy and/or description of the standard must be included.


6.1   Agencies may transfer digital geospatial data records using any of the approved media or methods listed in 36 CFR 1228.270(c). 3

6.2   Digital geospatial data records must not be compressed (e.g., Winzip, PKZIP) or aggregated (e.g., TAR) for purposes of transfer unless NARA has approved the transfer in compressed or aggregated form in advance. In such cases, NARA may require the agency to provide the software to decompress the records [see 36 CFR 1228.270(d)].


For assistance in scheduling digital geospatial data records, or to discuss how to handle permanent digital geospatial data records that do not meet the specifications in section 5.0, please contact your agency appraisal archivist in the Life Cycle Management Division (NWML). The NWML general telephone number is 301-837-3560.

For assistance in transferring digital geospatial data records to NARA, please contact the Electronic and Special Media Records Services Division (NWME), 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740. The NWME general telephone number is 301-837-3420.

1 Additional examples of open standards include the International Hydrographic Organization Transfer Standard for Digital Hydrographic Data (IHO 57), Spatial Data Standard for Facilities, Infrastructure and Environment (SDSFIE), and Military Standard: The Interface Standard for Vector Product Format (MIL-STD-2407).

2 Examples of descriptive metadata elements for digital geospatial data include the profiles in SDTS, the Federal Geographic Data Committee's Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata, as specified in Executive Order 12906 of April 11, 1994 (3 CFR, 1995 Comp., p.882), incorporated into 36 CFR 1228.270(e)(3), and the metadata components of the Geography Markup Language, version 3.

3 http://www.archives.gov/about/regulations/regulations.html