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Publication No. 46-19

AUG 5 '48

FOREWORD

06-38-48EP

The task of making, preserving, organizing, and using an adequate record of the manifold activities of the Federal Government is a staggering one. The war increased it to proportions not easily conceived. With a quarter of the whole working population of the country in the Federal service either as civilian employees or members of the armed forces during the war, the volume of records of activities of the Federal Government and its personnel rose to a total estimated at more than 18,000,000 cubic feet. Demobilization and the resumption of peacetime activities of the Government will make further additions to this already enormous volume unless retirement of records can keep pace. In this mountain of paper are the fiscal accounts governing the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars, the civil and military service records on which the rights of millions of persons depend, and the record of the whole body of administrative experience gained in more than a century and a half of our history. In this mountain of paper, in short, repose the vast memory and record of the American Government.

But it is obvious that the Government can hardly hope to preserve, much less adequately to organize and effectively to use, a body of records that would fill the National Archives Building many times over. The indispensable preliminary to other work with records, the salient feature of the problem that must first be dealt with, is the drastic elimination from this mass of material of those records that have served the purposes for which they were created and do not have continuing or enduring value. It is obvious that the disposal of records, until recently only nibbled at intermittently, must be undertaken comprehensively, vigorously, and on a scale entirely new to most agencies of the Government if there is to be a realistic hope of dealing adequately with the indi spensable core of valuable records in which the significant experience of Government and the documentation of the rights of its citizens are embodied. "Disposal" is used here in the sense only of destruction or alienation by the Government and is not intended to include retirement to the National Archives or to an agency depository.

This job is one that can be done only by the agencies that have custody of the records. In an endeavor to be of maximum assistance to them, the National Archives has prepared this manual on records disposal, which is a revision of a manual by the same name issued in February 1945. In it an effort is made not only to describe and explain the law, regulations, and procedures governing the di sposal of records but also to make as many practical suggestions as possible for the planning and operation of records disposal programs. These suggestions are based in part on observation of large-scale di sposal scheduling programs throughout the Government over the last 3 years.

In using this manual one thing should be remembered. The disposal of valueless records is really only one aspect of the problem of preserving -

valuable records and making them useful. A records disposal program will not realize its maximum value except as part of a comprehensive and planned records retirement program that provides for the appropriate treatment of all records of the agency as they become noncurrent. Parallel with the process of removing noncurrent valueless records for disposal should run the process of transferring noncurrent records of temporary value to a suitable agency depository where they can be maintained inexpensively and of transferring noncurrent records of enduring value to the National Archives.

The National Archives will gladly give all the assistance it can to any agency of the Federal Goverment in formulating and applying a records retirement program.

SOLON J. BUCK Archivist of the United States

June 14, 1946

C D

950



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CONTENTS

.u58

1946

Beginning a disposal program .....................

Getting started ................ ••••••••

Adopting a plan of action ......... .. .. .

Making the program official ........ ....

What to get from the National Archives ..

Training personnel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... . .

Getting cooperation • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Making a records survey ................. . .. .

Information needed from the survey .. •••••

Surveying classified general files ................

Surveying "housekeeping" records .................

Surveying field records ...........

Surveying motion pictures, sound recordings, and still photographs.

The evaluation of records . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Identifying records of enduring value . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Policy records • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Housekeeping records ........

Operating records ......

......

Statistical records ..........

• • • • • • • • •

Field records ..............

Duplicate records .... ...

.....

A practical caution . . . . . . . . • • • • •

Determination of retention periods ........

Preparing and clearing lists and schedules ...........

Use of disposal lists . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Filling out disposal lists . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Disposal lists of photographed or microphotographed records

Disposal lists of photographic and cartographic records ...

Use of disposal schedules . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Statement of retention period ...................

Description of records in a disposal schedule ...........

Basic planning of a disposal schedule ...............

Action on disposal lists and schedules by the National Archives and

by Congress . . . . . . . . •

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Comprehensive schedules . . . . . . . . • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Disposal of records that constitute a menace to Life, health, or

property • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

General schedules ..........................

Putting approved lists and schedules into effect ...........

Putting lists into effect ..................

Applying disposal schedules to records of headquarters offices

Applying schedules to field-office records . . . . . . . . . . . .

Importance of reporting .....................

Methods of disposal . . . . . . . . . . . . • • • • • • • • • •

Appendix I: Basic disposal legislation and regulations .......

Appendix II: Sample directives in regard to records officers ....

Appendix III: Sample records survey forms..............

Appendix IV: Instructions for preparing disposal lists and samples of

lists . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Appendix V: Instructions for preparing disposal schedules and samples

of schedules ........................... 48

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