Federal Records Management

Transferring Permanent Electronic Records to NARA- Answers to the Top 5 Question

When do I transfer my permanent electronic records to the National Archives?

  • First, ensure that the records are scheduled as permanent on a Records Schedule (RS) via the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) or on a Standard Form 115 (SF 115), Request for Records Disposition Authority.

  • Transfer records when they are no longer needed for agency business, or earlier if possible.

What Transfer Formats Can I Use?

The format depends on the type of records being transferred. NARA guidance for transferring specific types of permanent electronic records is available on the NARA website at http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/initiatives/erm-products.html. Some general guidelines include:

  • Textual records- plain ASCII or in Portable Document Format (PDF) format or scanned images.

  • Scanned images of textual records- the preferred formats are Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) and Portable Network Graphics (PNG). Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) and, Basic Image Interchange Format (BIIF) are also acceptable.

  • Data files and databases- convert tables to files with fixed-length fields or fields defined by delimiters.

  • Digital geospatial data- Spatial Data Transfer Standard (SDTS) or Geography Markup Language (GML). Preferred formats for these records are evolving, so contact NARA for assistance.

  • Digital photographic records- Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) and File Interchange Format (JFIF, JPEG) are also acceptable.

  • Web records- Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and other formats such as TIFF or PDF that either are embedded in the HTML or referenced by it.

What Transfer Media Can I Use?

It is probably easiest to transfer records on Compact-Disk, Read Only Memory (CD-ROM) or Digital Versatile Disc (DVD), because agencies typically have the drives for this media and it's inexpensive. Other acceptable media include magnetic tape and tape cartridges, such as Digital Linear Tape (DLT). You may also use File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

What else should I know about transferring permanent electronic records?

  • Electronic textual records should be logical collections of related records.

  • NARA also accepts email messages with attachments.

  • Data files and databases require more extensive documentation than other electronic records, and a record layout and codes are required for each file.

  • A completed Transfer Request (TR) via the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) or a completed Standard Form 258 (SF 258), Agreement to Transfer Records to the National Archives of the United States, accompanies the transfer. For electronic records, NARA takes legal custody after the processing is completed, not upon receipt of the records.

Where Can I Find Additional Information?

Complete information about NARA regulations for transfer can be found at: http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/initiatives/transfer-records-to-nara.html

For additional information and when ready to transfer electronic records, please contact the Electronic Records Section at Etransfers@nara.gov or 301-837-0470.

October 2012