Functions and Services
Records Management and Appraisal
Transferring Records to the Archives/Records Center
Records must be transferred to the Archives/Records Center with the Records Transfer Form (form 01-97.doc). All departments have access to this and other Archives forms, or forms may be procured from the Archivist. Forms must contain specific identifying information, such as name of department, departmental contact (name and telephone), title of records series, size of accession, and date of transfer. This will assist in retrieval of the records when requested.
Retrieving Records from the Archives/Records Center
Contact the Archivist for complete information on requesting photocopies, photographic, micrographic and digital reproductions. In the near future, an online reference request form will be available. Currently all records requests should be directed to the appropriate department. For department retrieval requests, please email the archivist or call 781-270-1604 or 781-270-1660 and the records will be transferred to your office.
The Archives will visit offices to survey their holdings, make recommendations about storage, remove records for storage in the vault or records storage area, and will manage reformatting for permanent or long-term records. The Archivist is also available for consultations about long-term space planning, records security, retention matters and other records-related issues.
Town Hall department records were initially surveyed from December, 1997-March, 1998. Further surveys have been undertaken between October 2002 and February 2005. The most recent survey involved the Fire Department's Fire Prevention Division and was undertaken in February, 2008. A second round of comprehensive records surveys is expected to begin in mid-2013, and will emphasize electronic records in anticipation of the establishment of an electronic records management system.
Going forward this service will be available to other town departments. The final survey report shows the series title; total cubic feet; annual rate of accumulation; how long the record needs to be kept (per the office of the Secretary of State, Supervisor of Public Records); whether or not the records have been microfilmed; identification of permanent record; vital records level; and microfilming recommendation.
Vital Records and Records Management
Vital records are the records needed to continue operations. They are central to municipal operations and contain information that cannot be reconstructed from other sources. Loss of vital records can result in litigation, financial loss, disrupted continuity of operations and damage to the interests of the citizens and employees of the town. Vital records typically constitute 3-5% of the total records volume. Records, as a whole, are classified into one of four groups:
Class 1 Vital: Class 1 records are essential to the continued life of the organization. They are irreplaceable because they give evidence of legal and financial status and of the rights and obligations of the town. Class 1 records also provide for the interests of the town citizens and employees. Generally housed in active storage. Example: accounts receivable, vital statistics, town meeting records, contracts, charters, minutes, payroll, ordinances and resolutions, documentation needed to run and read electronic records systems.
Class 2 Important: Class 2 records are necessary to the continued life of the organization. While these records can be replaced or reproduced, this can only be done at considerable cost in time and money. May be stored in active or inactive storage. Example: accounts payable, tax lists, directives.
Class 3 Useful: Class 3 records are useful to the continued life of the organization. These records may be replaced, but their loss would cause temporary inconvenience. Example: bank statements, correspondence.
Are vital records also permanent/archival records?
It depends: vital records may have a very short lifespan or they may have long-term historical value. Some record series will fall under both categories. For instance, minutes, public land deeds, town meeting records, vital statistics and charters are all archival and vital. Identifying the vital records level helps prioritize what records should be microfilmed first.
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Reformatting--Microfilming and Digitization
The office of the Secretary of State, Supervisor of Public Records (SPR) decides what permanent records can be microfilmed and whether or not they can be destroyed. All microfilming must be done in accordance with the Records Management Unit guidelines; these guidelines are very similar to industry standards such as Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) and Research Library Group (RLG).
Through 2006, The plan for future microfilm is:
- Phase 5: (Ongoing) Microfilming of building department records funded through revolving account.
- Phase 6: (Ongoing) Continuation of Accounting department microfilming. Microfilming of Treasurer's permanent payroll records (annual) As of the middle of FY 2007 the backlog for the Assessors' and Treasurer's records had been resolved and microfilming was being conducted on an annual maintenance basis.
- Phase 8: Filming of permanent commitment records. (Ongoing). These will involve records held by the Collector's office and Department of Public Works. Early DPW commitments were filmed in 2008 and will be resumed in mid 2013.
Record Retention Schedules
The office of the Secretary of State, Supervisor of Public Records publishes records retention schedules and is the ultimate authority on disposal of public record. The schedules cite applicable Massachusetts General Law and note how long the records must be kept. Although the schedules cover many of the record series within a department, many record series are not on the schedules. This means the informational use of the record must be researched before the Records Management Unit can make a decision.
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Electronic Records Management
Preservation, legality, compatibility and access are all major issues for electronic records management. These issues are especially key for "born digital," records -- those records that are created in information systems and will only exist in electronic format. A number of considerations affect the preservation of electronic records, including:
- Media on which the record is inscribed
- Software with which the record was written
- Hardware on which the software was run
- Operating system controlling the hardware
- Documentation that shows users how to operate the hardware, use the software and interpret the records
Arrangement, Description and Cataloging
Archival material is arranged and described by two guiding principles, provenance and original order. Provenance means that the materials are arranged according to the originating location or office i.e., the records of the Town Administrator would never be intermingled with the records of the Town Treasurer. Original order means just that: the rationale is that the original order typically holds evidence or information in itself. Rather than rearranging records by another system e.g., a subject-based system, the records are arranged, described and possibly indexed (depending on the anticipated use). The records are left in the original order and the original system is referenced. The rationale is that original order is the most usable system, particularly for the users that created it. Original order allows future generations of users to utilize the information contained in the records and to know the circumstances and situations affecting the creation and compilation of those records and that information. Ideally records come to the archives through a records management program.
Records are described in finding aids or inventories. The key parts of the finding aid are a historical/agency note; description of the organization of the records; and an outline of the organization. The level of description and indexing depends on the potential use of the collection and institutional resources. There are times that every item should be described, but most of the time records are described by series e.g. minutes.
Consult the Archivist for complete information on requesting photocopies, photographic, micrographic and digital reproductions. In the near future, an online reference request form and policies and procedures manual will be available to users and to the general public. Currently all records requests should be directed to the appropriate department. For department requests, please email or call 270-1604 or 270-1660 and the records will be transferred to your office.
Temperature and humidity readings are tested daily using a maximum/minimum hygrometer. Manual controls (dehumidifier and heat) are used to maintain as stable a climate as possible. Avoiding extreme temperature and relative humidity fluctuations are very important for the preservation of paper and magnetic media records. The ideal temperature is 60-70 degrees F + and the ideal relative humidity is 30-50% + 2% within a 24 hour period. Film (including microfilm), photographs and magnetic media (including videotape) have lower requirements, since temperature and relative humidity extremes cause the film and tape emulsions to flake.
Temperature affects chemical reactions--chemical reactions double with each 18 degree increase. Water is a critical factor in acid formation: the higher the moisture level, the faster the rate of damage. Rapid fluctuations in temperature and RH accelerate deterioration and cause the deterioration of paper fibers as they swell and shrink. High RH increases acid formation and low RH embrittles paper, parchment, adhesives, photographic emulsions and other materials.
Archival-quality Boxes and Folders
A key part of preventive preservation is the use of archival-quality boxes and folders. "Acid-free" is a term frequently used to describe archival-quality papers and materials made of neutral or buffered papers. Neutral enclosures (6.5-7.5 pH) have harmful acids removed; neutral enclosures also prevent the absorption of acids from the environment or from objects stored inside. Even better are buffered paper enclosures (7.5-9.5 pH): buffered paper enclosures contain alkaline material that neutralizes acids as they form. Paper quality is also very important: archival-quality containers should be lignin-free and contain more cotton or linen fiber than wood fiber. Besides protection, these boxes last longer, as the cardboard does not disintegrate as quickly as regular boxes.
Reformatting records onto microfilm and into electronic formats is also a key part of preventive preservation. Reformatting provides a duplicate record--this way the original record is only handled when it is absolutely necessary. Reformatting is also an important tactic in disaster planning and mitigation. By transferring information onto a stable medium and storing the film in a waterproof, fireproof vault, town records are provided an extra layer of security, thus helping to preserve the town's interests and the rights of its citizens, taxpayers, ratepayers, and employees.
Records containing sensative information, personal identifying information (PIN), or infomation restricted from public view by Massachusetts or federal statutes or regulations should be transferred to the Archives at the time the retention period for those records expires. The Archives will supervise destruction on behalf of municipal departments via shredding or other means. The Archives will receive records targeted for destruction in any format.