Federal Records Management

Resources - Publications: Managing Audiovisual Records

1999 Web Edition Table of Contents


This instructional manual provides basic guidance for the creation, maintenance, preservation, and use of audiovisual records as part of their life-cycle management. Due to their vulnerability to damage from poor storage and handling practices, the special precautions described in this manual must be followed to ensure the availability of audiovisual records during the period they are needed to conduct agency business. When no longer needed for current business the archival or record set of permanent audiovisual records as identified in this manual must be scheduled for transfer to the National Archives where they will be preserved and made available for research.

Two groups of Federal officials should primarily benefit from this guide: first, records officers and individuals responsible for the creation, maintenance, and use of audiovisual records and, second, other administrative officials responsible for the integration of audiovisual records into records and information resources management programs. Each group tends to work separately in specialized disciplines, yet together they share a joint responsibility for the nation's documentary heritage in partnership with the National Archives. As defined by law and regulations, audiovisual records made or received by Federal agencies in conducting official business are records just as are correspondence or case files. Audiovisual records may also include materials acquired from non-Federal sources that document or are used to carry out agency programs. Furthermore, audiovisual records are subject to the same disposition procedures as are all Federal records. Agencies cannot destroy, donate, or transfer them to any other organization without NARA's prior approval.

This guide also provides standards for the life-cycle management of long-term audiovisual records, including those covered by an agency records schedule as well as those awaiting scheduling. Unscheduled audiovisual records must be treated as permanent until NARA appraises them. Included in the guide is information on the disposition of several common categories of temporary audiovisual records.

Audiovisual records include motion picture film, still photographs, filmstrips, sound and video recordings, posters and other graphic works, and multimedia productions with related finding aids and production files. Agencies are advised to apply the standards for permanent records to long-term audiovisual records, including many medical x-ray photographs.

The term audiovisual records implies much more uniformity than is really justified in view of the technical demands of each medium it encompasses. The use of the term in this guide is mainly for convenience.

Creating Audiovisual Records

Federal agencies create audiovisual records as part of official programs because they record many kinds of information beyond the written word. They also serve as direct and powerful communications tools that can reach and inform many people. Steady growth of audiovisual production in the Federal establishment is common knowledge.

Audiovisual information possesses a unique dimension that the written word cannot replace. For example, transcripts of speeches or meetings hardly substitute for recordings that show gestures and personality traits or the tone of voice of persons who participated in the important events that have shaped our Nation's history. It is especially important to adhere to high standards when creating and maintaining permanent audiovisual records. Lesser efforts generally produce poor quality copies of audiovisual records or hasten their deterioration, which renders preservation problematic.

The quality of audiovisual records will best be preserved when the records are made by professionally qualified staff or contractors who use industrial grade equipment and, as in photochemistry, follow the manufacturer's specifications for processing. Creation of all required record elements (basically, preservation, duplication, and reference copies as well as finding aids) ensures the preservation of the records for as long as the agency needs them and enables the National Archives to ensure their continued preservation for researchers. When an agency fails to create or transfer all necessary record elements for permanent audiovisual records, NARA has to produce them. This not only adds unnecessary costs to the Government and delays in making the records available but may result in inferior products if the agency transferred only used copies.

Purchasing Audiovisual Media

Federal agencies should consider preservation requirements when purchasing audiovisual media. Most audiovisual media are designed and manufactured not for permanence but for performance and economy. When creating permanent records, Federal agencies should follow these guidelines:

  • For blank magnetic tape, film stock (see 36 CFR 1230(a)), and photographic paper, and similar products, purchase well-established name brands and freshly manufactured materials.
  • For sound and video recordings, use fresh tape that has not been previously recorded; for sound recordings, record at the fastest speeds for best quality.
  • Because of their thin tapes, audio cassettes are not recommended for use as original recordings. Instead, use open-reel tapes recorded at full track.
  • Avoid using VHS video cassettes as originals. Use professional formats that can be copied with less noticeable loss in resolution.
  • Follow all manufacturer's specifications for processing photographic materials.

The wide range of color film products and photographic paper available have varying degrees of permanence. The manufacturer's literature is rarely the best source of information about the stability of these products. The bibliographic references cited in appendix F provide guidance.

Potentially Permanent Audiovisual Records

Audiovisual records rarely provide documentation of an agency's organization and functions, one of the tests of permanent value, but they do often contain unique information about many aspects of agency operations. Since the activities of the United States Government are varied and extensive, audiovisual records reflect a broad spectrum of our national life. Thus, their informational value makes them highly useful for research. While it is difficult to anticipate all audiovisual records that may have long-term research value, records documenting certain recurring subjects are usually permanent:

  • Recordings of proceedings or hearings

  • Broadcast recordings of overseas programs

  • Recordings of speeches, interviews, and media appearances by top agency officials

  • Recordings produced in oral history projects

  • Coverage of ceremonies of historical or commemorative significance

  • Illustrations used in major publications or in graphic works

  • Photographic documentation used in the investigation of accidents or catastrophes

  • Public information films and videotapes

  • Publicity photographs

  • Visual documentation of military operations, bases, equipment, weaponry, uniforms, everyday life in the field, and terrain or physical environments in areas where military operations have taken place

  • Visual documentation of research and development projects of unusual significance

Described below are categories of audiovisual records according to specific media formats. These, too, are likely to have permanent value and are common agency records. These descriptions are not adequate for records schedules, but they may be used as general guidance in identifying specific holdings of audiovisual records that have permanent value.

Graphic Works

1. Posters distributed agency-wide or to the public

2. Original graphic work of unusual or outstanding merit

Moving Image Media (finished productions)

1. Agency-sponsored programs intended for the public

2. Television news releases and information reports

3. Public service or advertising spot announcements

4. Training programs that explain agency functions or activities intended for internal or external use other than those dealing with personnel or administrative matters

5. Programs produced under grants that are submitted to an agency

6. Programs acquired from outside sources that relate to significant aspects of an agency's work

7. Training programs in the overall use of significant technologies and weapons systems

Moving Image Media (documentary footage)

1. Documentary footage shot for research and development, fact finding, or other studies, excluding routine surveillance, scientific, medical, or engineering footage

2. Outtakes (i.e., unused footage) shot for agency productions that show unstaged, actual events of historical interest

3. Coverage of public meetings, speeches, conferences, and testimonies of agency officials before congressional committees and other hearings

4. Coverage of media appearances by top agency officials

5. Documentation of significant agency operations and activities (e.g., military operations, NASA launches, etc.)

Still Photographs

1. Photographs, slides, or filmstrips, depicting the mission, programs, significant activities, and functions of the agency

2. Similar materials produced or collected for use in agency publications, exhibitions, or other media productions

3. Official portraits of senior agency officials

4. Photographic documentation of significant construction, rehabilitation, or reconstruction projects (e.g., major buildings, dams, highways, etc.)

Sound Recordings (finished productions)

1. Radio programs for public broadcast

2. Public service or advertising spot announcements

3. Internal management news or information programs

4. Recordings acquired from outside sources that relate to significant aspects of an agency's program

5. Recordings produced under grants that are submitted to an agency

Sound Recordings (documentary recordings)

1. Recordings of public meetings or speeches, conferences, guest speakers, and testimonies of agency officials before congressional committees and at other hearings

2. Recordings, or oral histories, of people who have participated in events that an agency deems historically significant

3. Radio broadcasts of speeches, remarks, or interviews by top agency officials

4. Documentary recordings made for fact-finding or other studies

Production Files and Finding Aids

The audiovisual record also includes related production files bearing upon the origin of the audiovisual items and the Government's ownership. These files may also show the existence of copyright or other proprietary rights that are legally enforceable in subsequent use. Production files are essential documentation for professionally made film or television programs produced or sponsored by Federal agencies. The files aid the researcher in discerning the purpose and considerations of each production. Since many Government productions lack personal credits such as director, producer, and writer, the production file is an appropriate place to document this information.

Similarly, finding aids are an essential component of audiovisual records. Typically, they consist of indexes, catalogs, caption or title lists, camera operator's notes, or other formats, often at a level of subject-matter detail that NARA can never hope to replicate. Increasingly, finding aids for audiovisual records are created electronically. These too should be transferred along with the audiovisual records following the requirements identified in 36 CFR 1228.266.

Maintaining Audiovisual Records

Audiovisual records are among the most fragile record forms, and adverse storage conditions hasten their deterioration. Placing them in close contact with some materials causes deleterious chemical reactions. Mishandling and other abusive treatment can damage them beyond repair, causing catastrophic loss of valuable information.

Many Federal agencies are unable to establish programs that meet archival standards for the preservation of audiovisual records. Such programs require optimum storage conditions, specialized processing facilities, and professional archivists. Nonetheless, agencies should employ safeguards and procedures that will protect audiovisual records from damage.

Storage Conditions

Poor storage conditions for audiovisual records impede their preservation. High relative humidity (for example, above 60 percent) encourages the growth of mold and other fungi on film-based materials, whose binders are derived from organic compounds. High relative humidity also causes oxidation of silver content in film and metal compounds in audio and video tape. In addition, it causes deterioration of the oxide coating on magnetic tapes, leading to clogged magnetic tape heads and scratched tapes. Warm temperatures tend to accelerate undesirable chemical and physical changes in audiovisual records (including x-ray photographs), such as shrinkage of film materials, embrittlement, separation of film base and emulsion, and fading of color film images.

In recent years, preservationists have become increasingly concerned about the longevity of a major class of safety film composed of cellulose-acetate. Several scientific studies have independently shown how adverse storage conditions create a form of hydrolysis in acetate-based film that develops free acid and the emission of acetic gas, leading to the total degradation of the film. Identified as the "vinegar syndrome," this destructive chemical process potentially affects all forms of acetate film.

Polyester-based film, widely used for sheet film since the 1970s, is much less prone to self-destructive tendencies because the base resists chemical and physical changes, although the emulsion is still vulnerable to damage from excessive heat, humidity, and harmful gases. Nonetheless, when there is a choice such as in motion picture stocks, polyester is preferable to cellulose triacetate because of its superior long-term stability.

The fading of color film images is also of great concern. Color dyes, made of organic materials, are not permanent. Heat, humidity, and exposure to light accelerate color dye fading, resulting in the discolored images that may be found in many older collections. Cold storage below freezing combined with low relative humidity effectively retards color fading.

Pollutant gases in urban or suburban environments are potentially harmful as are off-gases from newly painted rooms, new furniture or flooring, and chemical storage areas. Agencies should store audiovisual records in areas not subject to gases and fumes.

Providing proper storage conditions for audiovisual materials is a complex problem, one that probably cannot be fully solved in the facilities available to most agencies. Nevertheless, audiovisual records (including x-ray photographs) should not be stored where the temperature exceeds 72 degrees Fahrenheit and the relative humidity is higher than 50 percent. Even cooler and drier storage conditions are desirable to increase the life expectancy of audiovisual records. The storage environment should be cool and dry and relatively free from harmful gases.

Storage Enclosures

Choosing the right storage enclosure or container helps to lengthen the useful life of audiovisual records. Agencies should store still-picture negatives and long-term x- ray photographs in acid- and peroxide-free envelopes or sleeves. Archival storage containers made of polypropylene, polyethylene, or noncorroding metal for originals or master copies of roll film, open-reel sound recordings, and video cassettes are commercially available; NARA encourages their use for permanent and long-term records.

Storage Practices

Agencies should ensure that storage areas for audiovisual records are protected against unauthorized access and damage from fire, water, chemicals, insect infestation, or other potentially harmful conditions. Originals, masters, and access or reference copies of audiovisual records all should be stored separately and, if necessary, off-site. The greater the separation of these different sets, the greater the chance of survival of at least one copy after a catastrophe. Separation also reduces errors in retrieving copies for use.

Audiovisual records that do not constitute discrete series in themselves (for example, audio or video cassettes in case files) should be removed, appropriately cross-referenced, and stored where environmental conditions will provide the most benefit. Still photographs, however, interfiled with documents should be left in place.

Handling Practices

Only experienced staff with requisite skills should handle original and master copies of audiovisual records. In addition, equipment for projection or playback of audiovisual records should be in good working order, properly cleaned in areas that touch the film or tape, and used only in rooms that are free from dust and other particulate matter.

Copies should be made to fill loan requests. Loans of permanent or unscheduled records to nonfederal recipients require prior written approval from NARA (36 CFR 1228.72). However, NARA approval is not required for loan of nonrecord copies. NARA recommends that agencies lend only reference copies to other Federal agencies. If an agency loans original records, the agency should require that appropriate storage and handling procedures are followed. In addition, the agency should set a specific time period for the duration of the loan and follow up with the recipient to ensure that the records are returned.

Every effort should be made to prevent accidental or deliberate erasure or alteration of magnetic recordings. The record mode on players should be disengaged or the record button or tab at the bottom or on the spine of cassettes should be removed. Although accidental erasure from stray magnetic fields is rare, agencies should not store magnetic media near high-voltage lines or transformers. Agencies should control access to original images created digitally in order to protect the authenticity and integrity of the record.

Agencies should discourage use of original motion picture film for excerpt copying and, above all, prevent the use of A and B rolls for the reproduction of excerpts or stock footage. These matched camera original reels contain numerous editing splices that are easily damaged and difficult to repair.

Although few agencies still have nitrocellulose film, it is critical that nitrate film and safety acetate film be stored separately. Chemically unstable and highly inflammable, nitrate film can be identified by a pungent odor of deterioration similar to nitric acid, a yellowish color of the film base, and stickiness. Nitrate motion picture film was manufactured until 1951 and only in the 35mm gauge. Manufacturers phased out nitrocellulose film for x-ray photographs, still pictures, and motion pictures between 1933 and 1951. Federal agencies should offer all film materials of this vintage to the National Archives. Agencies should also contact NARA if they discover deteriorating cellulose-acetate film. A strong acetic odor, buckling, channeling, and crystalline residue are all signs of acetate deterioration.

Arrangement and Identification

Disposable and permanent audiovisual records, as indicated in an approved records schedule, should be stored separately. Unnecessary, redundant, duplicate, and poor-quality copies should be screened out and discarded as authorized by General Records Schedule 21, Audiovisual Records. Nonrecord copies of audiovisual records received from other sources should also be weeded and discarded when no longer needed. The abundance of contemporary photography can become unmanageable if files are not periodically weeded.

Agencies need to identify records with captions or appropriate markings. Persons, places, dates, or circumstances that seem familiar today easily fade into obscurity tomorrow; unidentified audiovisual records become useless for research. For still pictures, a consistent format for recording captions, typically consisting of dates, locations, names, subjects, events, copyright ownership if applicable, and identification numbers should be used. Moving image media and sound recordings require similar identification. Captioning or other descriptive information does not have to be affixed to the record itself but may be maintained in a parallel file, catalog, or database if the correlation is clear.

All enclosures and containers should be marked with identification numbers. Enclosures for negatives and corresponding prints should be marked with the same number. Prints without negatives should be numbered on the back edge with a soft pencil; annotations should never be made on the face or on the middle of the back. Negatives and prints should be filed in separate locations.

Photographs should be arranged numerically, chronologically, or alphabetically by subject in blocks that permit easy transfer to the National Archives according to the cutoff dates indicated in agency records schedules.

Scheduling and Disposition

Inventorying and scheduling are the essential ingredients of an effective records disposition program. For audiovisual records, these tasks may be complicated by a multiplicity of copies and their dispersal in different locations. Officials holding audiovisual materials may not be aware of their responsibilities to treat them as records under appropriate laws and regulations, including directives from their own agency. An agency may be unaware of audiovisual records in contractor custody because the program personnel who were responsible for them may have retired, resigned, or moved on to other assignments. However, the agency is still responsible for keeping records held by contractors under inventory control. Permanent audiovisual records and related finding aids held by contractors should be transferred on a regular basis to the agency or directly to the National Archives.


Records inventories are based on the concept of a "series" as the unit of control. A records series is an accumulation of records kept together because the separate items relate to a particular subject or function, result from the same activity, have the same physical form, or have another relationship. For audiovisual records, the inventory should describe series of still photographs, motion pictures, sound recordings, video recordings, or multimedia applications that are arranged under a single filing or numbering system, relate to a particular subject, or are made or received by the same unit or activity. The inventory should describe each records series and provide storage locations, arrangement, volume or number of items, and other relevant information. (A sample inventory form is included in appendix A.)

Audiovisual records created or maintained by different offices or arranged differently are separate series. Agencies often underestimate the number of series because of a tendency to lump audiovisual records together by format, particularly if they are kept in a central storage area. A careful analysis will frequently reveal the existence of discrete series, each of which is distinguished by origin or function. For example, since still photography negatives and corresponding prints are usually arranged differently and are often maintained in separate offices, they should be described separately.

A good series description identifies the basic category of audiovisual records, such as motion pictures, still pictures, or sound recordings. It also includes a description of the formats, gauges, and sizes, such as 35mm or 16mm film, sheet film, transparencies, or audio cassettes. Inclusive dates and estimated number of items are key elements of a series description. The inventory should also identify any finding aids or production documentation, such as catalogs, scripts, indexes, caption lists, the camera operator's or photographer's notes, copyright information, original scores, and transcripts.

Federal agencies often contract with private companies and commercial laboratories to produce, copy, service, and store audiovisual records. For various reasons, copies and even the original materials may remain in private hands. Agencies should include such records when compiling inventories. Contractor facilities should be inspected at least on an annual basis.

In addition to the series descriptions, separate listings of discrete items such as films and sound and video recordings are useful. These lists should distinguish between originals and copies. Copies of original film materials and analog audio and video tapes are inferior when compared to originals, especially if the copies have received a great deal of use. Originals, especially of permanent audiovisual records, need to be identified and maintained separately to ensure their preservation.

Records Scheduling

NARA must approve records schedules before agencies may take any final disposition action on Federal records. All records are either temporary or permanent. Temporary records are those NARA has approved for destruction. Normally they pertain to routine operations and have little or no enduring value. Permanent records are those NARA decides should be retained indefinitely as part of the National Archives of the United States.

Scheduling is the process of analyzing the use and value of Government records and recommending an appropriate disposition. The scheduling process involves both the agencies and NARA. The agencies inventory their unique records, prepare records schedules based on the inventories, and submit the schedules to NARA for approval. In addition to appraising records on agency-prepared schedules, NARA provides Government-wide disposition authority through the General Records Schedules (GRS). Because the GRS provide mandatory disposal authority for certain temporary records common to several or all agencies, agencies do not submit schedules for those records.

The process of scheduling unique agency records involves the Standard Form (SF) 115, Request for Records Disposition Authority, also known as a records schedule. An agency records officer prepares the SF 115 by describing one or more series of records and by providing proposed instructions for their disposition based on the agency's need for the records and an assessment of any value. Once the form is submitted to NARA, NARA archivists appraise the records and determine the final disposition category of the records--permanent or temporary.

GRS 21, Audiovisual Records, provides for mandatory disposal authority for several categories of temporary audiovisual records that are common to several agencies. They include, for example, photographs of routine award ceremonies, personnel photographs, duplicates, and surveillance footage.

Records schedules may include provisions for transfer of audiovisual records to a Federal records center for storage. However, before initiating such a transfer, agencies should contact the center to determine if it has adequate environmental controls to protect the records from deterioration. In consideration of their unique storage and preservation requirements, agencies should schedule permanent audiovisual records for transfer to NARA's Special Media Archives Services Division when they are no longer needed by the agency. At its building in College Park, MD, NARA maintains special storage facilities that will extend the useful life of audiovisual records.

In general, NARA recommends transfer of permanent audiovisual records within 5 years of creation. Audiovisual records held in office or storage space lacking appropriate environment controls for 10 to 20 years will face the possibility of catastrophic loss through deterioration.

In preparing inventories and schedules for audiovisual records, agencies should keep in mind the following guidelines:

  1. Audiovisual records should be inventoried and scheduled in the context of other agency records. Relationships between series are important. While some audiovisual records have unique or independent value, complementary files may enhance their value for historical research.

  2. Knowledge of the records' provenance is critical to achieving an understanding of their origin and purpose. Provenance, in this context, means information on the origin, ownership, and custody history of records. The inventory should include finding aids and files relating to the origin, production, and ownership rights of audiovisual records. These related files can consist of catalogs, scripts, indexes, caption lists, photographer's notes, transcripts, and copyright information.

  3. Audiovisual records should be scheduled as soon as possible after the series is established. Unless the records have been appraised by NARA as temporary, requirements governing the creation, maintenance, and handling of permanent audiovisual records apply.

  4. Permanent records should be scheduled for transfer to the National Archives as early as possible in their life cycle, preferably not later than 5 years. In addition, NARA usually grants requests for early transfer, particularly in cases of reorganizations and program closures.

  5. Disposition instructions for permanent posters should provide for transfer of two copies of each poster to the National Archives when the poster is put in distribution. By handling posters this way, complete sets will be sent to the National Archives when the posters are new, rather than after a period of years when the collection may no longer be complete.

Records Schedule Implementation

The GRS and, once approved by NARA, agency records schedules are mandatory. Agency records officers and program officials are obliged to follow the disposition instructions in the schedules. Federal agencies must destroy temporary records in accordance with disposition instructions in the schedules. The disposal of black-and-white film materials, including x-ray photographs, that contain recoverable silver should be carried out according to 41 CFR 101-45.10, Recovery of Precious Metals.

Agencies request formal transfer of records to the National Archives by submitting an SF 258, Agreement to Transfer Records to the National Archives of the United States. Once the form is submitted, NARA will review it and, if it meets with schedule provisions, arrange for the transfer. The form should cover series of audiovisual records in logical increments or accretions. NARA will not accept single audiovisual items for transfer except in rare instances of unusual value. An exception to this rule involves posters; NARA prefers agencies to transfer two copies of each poster at the time of its initial distribution. All available record elements, as described for each format in the following section, Record Elements for Archival Records, should be included in the transfer. After receipt of the records, NARA will sign the form to indicate transfer of legal responsibility for the records as well as physical custody and send a copy to the agency.

When audiovisual programs are withdrawn from distribution, agencies should determine: (1) if the records are scheduled, and (2) if they are needed to complete the permanent audiovisual record set as defined in 36 CFR 1228.266. Agency records officers and audiovisual or information officials should consult each other before making any decisions regarding the disposition of such programs.

Record Elements for Archival Materials

In inventorying and scheduling audiovisual records, agencies should recognize that various elements in each format are all part of the record. In comparison to paper records, the audiovisual record rarely consists of a single copy. Permanent audiovisual records to be transferred to the National Archives consist of a set of copies. An audiovisual set of records consists of the basic record elements needed for future preservation, duplication, and reference needs. The complete audiovisual record also includes related finding aids such as catalogs, lists, or indexes and production files that identify the Government's ownership rights or provide historical background on the origin of the materials.

The specific record elements for each audiovisual type are described below.

Record Elements

Graphic Works

Posters: Two copies.

Original art: Two photographic copies

Motion Picture Films

Agency-sponsored films: The edited original negative or color original ("out-of-camera originals") plus the matching finished soundtrack (optical sound preferred); an intermediate master positive or duplicate negative plus matching sound track (optical preferred); and a sound projection print and video recording, if both exist.

Acquired films: Two projection prints in good condition or one projection print and a video recording.

Unedited footage: The original negative or color original and a matching work print or video tape; an intermediate master positive or duplicate negative, if one exists; and matching sound tracks. (Note: In the unedited stage, soundtracks are typically 1/4-inch open-reel magnetic recordings synchronized with film footage.) In addition, since unedited footage, particularly out takes or unused footage from finished productions, can be unwieldy in large quantities, they must be arranged, labeled, and described to make them useful for research.

Sound Recordings

Audiotape recordings (open reel, cassette): The original recording (or earliest generation copy if the original is not available) and a subsequent generation copy for reference, if one exists.

Compact discs: The master audiotape for original analog recordings and two compact discs.

Conventional mass-produced, multiple-copy disc recordings: The master tape, matrix or stamper, and two disc pressings.

Still Photographs

Black-and-white photographs: The original negative, and a captioned print, although the captioning information can be maintained another file, such as a data base, if the file number correlation is clear. If the original negative is nitrate, unstable acetate, or glass-based, a duplicate negative on a polyester base is also needed.

Color photographs: The original color negative, color transparency, or color slide; a captioned print of the original color negative; and/or captioning information as described above if for an original color transparency or original color slide; and a duplicate negative, or slide, or transparency, if they exist.

Slide sets: The original and a reference set, and the related audio recording and script.

Filmstrips: The original and a reference copy.

Video Recordings

Videotapes: The original tape recording (or the earliest generation if the original is not available) and a dubbing or copy. Unedited video footage shot for a production is eligible for transfer if properly arranged, labeled, and described.

Videodiscs: The premaster videotape used to manufacture the videodisc. Two distribution copies of the videodisc. (Note: 1. Original audiovisual records, typically photographs, appraised as permanent and copied onto a videodisc must be scheduled for transfer to NARA along with two copies of the videodisc. 2. Videodiscs that depend on interactive software and nonstandardized equipment may not be acceptable for transfer. Agencies should discuss their videodisc systems with NARA's Life Cycle Management Division (NWML) to determine their usefulness as record copies.)

Further Information and Assistance

For information on managing and maintaining audiovisual records, identifying permanent audiovisual records, and scheduling and disposition of audiovisual records, talk to your supervisor, your office's records liaison, or your agency's records officer.

Additional information on scheduling and disposition of audiovisual records, including the use of the SF 115, General Records Schedules, and any other records management concerns, may be obtained from NARA's Modern Records Programs, Life Cycle Management Division, telephone: (301) 713-6677 or e-mail records.mgt@nara.gov.

For information on transfer of scheduled motion pictures, sound, and video, contact Access Programs, Special Media Archives Division, telephone (301) 837-3540, or e-mail inquire@nara.gov.

For information on the transfer of scheduled photographic and graphic arts records, telephone (301) 837-0561 or e-mail inquire@nara.gov.

NARA Records Management Assistance
NARA provides advice and assistance to agencies in scheduling records, applying records schedules, or other records disposition matters. NARA also provides assistance on records creation, files maintenance, use of microfilm, optical disk technology, and vital records management. NARA conducts records management training classes and briefings, provides information on other records management training, assists agencies in setting up their own records management training programs, and prepares publications.

For more information about this assistance, write to

Life Cycle Management Division (NWML),
8601 Adelphi Road,
College Park, MD 20740-6001,

call 301-713-6677,

or send an e-mail to records.mgt@nara.gov.

Publications and Training

For more information about NARA records management publications and training, visit the following NARA records management web sites:

Records Management Publications

Records Management Training

NARA Regional Records Management Assistance

For further information on use of NARA regional archives, records centers, microfilming services, and records management training and assistance in regional offices, contact the facility that serves your region at NARA Regional Records Services Facilities or call 301-713-7210.

Appendix A. Series Inventory Form

Appendix B. Audiovisual Records Management Self-Evaluation Checklist

This checklist reflects NARA regulations and recommended practices for the creation, maintenance and disposition of Federal audiovisual records. Federal agencies may find it useful in evaluating their audiovisual records management procedures.

Program Direction

  • Does the agency records management directive specify how audiovisual records are to be maintained to ensure their preservation throughout their life cycle?
  • Does the agency ensure that personnel who handle audiovisual records are properly trained?


  • Are audiovisual records segregated into discrete series?
  • Are original and use copies of audiovisual records maintained separately?
  • Are appropriate finding aids such as indexes, captions, lists of captions, data sheets, shot lists, continuities, review sheets, and catalogs (published or unpublished) created and maintained for all audiovisual records?
  • Are permanent audiovisual records filed separately from temporary audiovisual records, as specified in NARA-approved records schedules?
  • Are cross-references to closely related textual records maintained with audiovisual records?


  • Does the agency control access to original audiovisual records to safeguard them from accidental or deliberate alteration?
  • Has the agency instituted procedures to ensure that information on permanent or unscheduled magnetic sound or video media is not erased or re-recorded?
  • Does the agency retain original photographic images created electronically (digital photography)?
  • Does the agency maintain originals of permanent or unscheduled photographs scanned into computer programs?
  • Does the agency periodically inspect its audiovisual records to determine if any are deteriorating?
  • Does the agency annually inspect contractor facilities that store its audiovisual records to ensure that the records are properly maintained?
  • Does the agency notify NARA about deteriorating acetate-based audiovisual records?


  • Is the temperature in the storage area for audiovisual records 72 degrees Fahrenheit or less and the relative humidity between 30 and 40 percent?
  • Do storage conditions protect audiovisual records from fire and water damage and insect, pest, and mold infestation?
  • Are storage containers for permanent or unscheduled audiovisual records made of noncorroding metal, inert plastics, paper products, or other materials recommended in ANSI standards (available from ANSI, Inc., 11 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036)?
  • Is all nitrocellulose-based motion picture, still picture, and aerial film stored in a vault meeting fire safety standards?

Creation and Maintenance of Permanent and Unscheduled Audiovisual Records

  • Is polyester-based film used for permanent and unscheduled audiovisual records?
  • Are the premaster videotape and two copies of each videodisc created and maintained?
  • Is professional quality format videotape (for example, 3/4") used for original record copies?
  • Is professional, unrecorded, polyester, splice-free tape stock used for the original record copies of audio or video recordings?
  • Are audio recordings made using 1/4-inch open-reel tapes at 3 3/4 or 7 inches per second, full track?
  • Are the following record elements created and maintained for permanent or unscheduled motion picture films: original negative or color original plus separate optical sound track, intermediate master positive or duplicate negative plus optical sound track, sound project print, and originals and prints of unedited footage showing unstaged, unrehearsed events of historical value?
  • Are original negatives and captioned prints made for permanent or unscheduled black-and-white photographs?
  • Are original color transparencies or color negatives, captioned prints, and internegatives created for permanent or unscheduled color photographs?
  • Are original and reference sets and related audio recordings and scripts created for permanent or unscheduled slide sets?
  • Are originals and reference prints created for pictorial records such as posters, original artwork, and filmstrips?
  • Are premaster tapes, 2 vinyl disc pressings, and 2 CDs created for sound recordings?
  • Are original tapes and dubbings created for sound recordings on audiotape (reel-to-reel for originals and cassettes for access copies or dubs)?
  • Do production case files or other files include copies of production contracts, scripts, transcripts, and documentation bearing on the origin, acquisition, release, and ownership of productions?

Audiovisual Records Created or Stored by Contractors

  • Do contracts identify which contractor-created records are Federal records that must be managed according to Federal laws and requirements and eventually turned over to the Government?
  • Do contracts for the production of audiovisual records specify that the requirements reflected in questions 4, 13, and 15 be met?
  • Do agency contracts for the production of audiovisual records specify the delivery of background data that may have further value to the agency in addition to the final product?
  • Do agency contracts for the storage of audiovisual records specify environmental conditions, storage containers, and handling procedures?
  • Are audiovisual records maintained in contractor storage facilities inspected at least annually?

Disposition of Audiovisual Records

  • Has the agency developed records schedules for all audiovisual records not covered by General Records Schedule 21, Audiovisual Records?
  • Are audiovisual records destroyed only in accordance with NARA-approved records schedules (agency-developed schedules and GRS 21)?
  • Does the agency store permanent, unscheduled, or long-term audiovisual records only in off-site facilities that provide appropriate environmental controls?
  • Has the agency notified NARA about all nitrocellulose film in its custody so that appropriate disposition action can be determined?

Appendix C. General Records Schedule (GRS) 21

GRS 21 - Audiovisual Records

Appendix D. Code of Federal Regulations

Part 1228 Disposition of Federal Records

1228.266 Audiovisual records.

Part 1232 Audiovisual Records Management

Appendix E. Selected Bibliography

Boyle, Deirdre. "Video Preservation: Securing the Future of the Past." New York: Media Alliance, 1993.

Bowser, Eileen, and John Kuiper, eds. "A Handbook for Film Archives." New York and London: International Federation of Film Archives and Garland Publishers, 1991.

Eastman Kodak. "The Book of Film Care." Rochester, NY: Eastman Kodak, 1992.

Focal Press." The Focal Encyclopedia of Film and Television Techniques." New York: Hastings House, Publishers, 1969.

Image Permanence Institute. "The IPI Storage Guide for Acetate Film." Rochester, NY: IPI, Rochester Institute of Technology, 1993.

McWilliams, Jerry. "The Preservation and Restoration of Sound Recordings." Nashville, TN: American Association for State and Local History, 1979.

National Archives and Records Administration. "Disposition of Federal Records: A Records Management Handbook." Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992.

--------- "Sound Recordings Procedures Manual." Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1993.

Van Bogart, John W.C., Magnetic Tape Storage and Handling: A Guide for Libraries and Archives, Washington and St. Paul: The Commission on Preservation and Access, 1995.

Weinstein, Robert A., and Larry Booth. "Collection, Use, and Care of Historical Photographs." Nashville, TN: American Association for State and Local History, 1977.

Wilhelm, Henry. "The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs: Traditional and Digital Color Prints, Color Negatives, Slides, and Motion Pictures." Grinnell, IA: Preservation Publishing Company, 1993.

Bibliographic note:Web version based on Managing Audiovisual Records, Second Edition, National Archives and Records Administration Instructional Guide Series, College Park, MD (1996), 21 pp.

Note: Web version may vary from the printed version.