CHS Administration Handbook Rev. 2013
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Data Practices

Government Records and Retention

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Excerpted from: Managing your Government Records: Guidelines for Archives and Agencies (Minnesota Historical Society, v3, rev. 2009).

Government records are of great value to the State of Minnesota and its citizens—they are necessary for conducting government business; they help preserve our heritage by documenting our historical places, people, and events; and they are used frequently for research and investigations. As a government agency or historical society, you take on the many responsibilities that come with holding and managing these vital documents.


What is a Government Record?

Related Chapter
Minnesota Government Data Practices Act

Government records are defined as state and local records that are created in accordance with state law or in connection with public business transactions. Government records are created by officers or agencies of the state, counties, cities, towns, school districts, municipal subdivisions, organizations, or any other public authorities or political entities.

Examples of government records include correspondence, maps, memoranda, papers, photographs, reports, writings, recordings, e-mail, and other data, information, or documentary material. Records can be stored on various media such as paper, microform, audio and video tape, photographic materials, computer hard drives, or removable media. It is important to remember that government records refer to the recorded data or information regardless of the media it is recorded on or format it is in. For example, the information found on a birth certificate is considered the record, not the paper document or the microfilm it is recorded on.


Records Retention Schedules

Img     General Records Retention Schedules [Minnesota Historical Society]

Records retention schedules are an essential tool for managing your government records. These schedules specify minimum retention periods for records based on the records' administrative, fiscal, legal, and historical value. The State Archives maintains retention schedule information, including schedules for Minnesota counties, cities, townships, school districts, district courts, human resources schedules for state agencies, and financial schedules for state agencies.

Img     Records Services Forms [Minnesota Historical Society]

State or local government agencies may create their own records retention schedules, but each schedule must have the proper review and approval prior to use. To create your own records retention schedule, you must first submit three signed copies of your proposed schedule to the State Archives of the Minnesota Historical Society. The State Archives will review the schedule, and then submit it to the Records Disposition Panel for final review and approval. Once the schedule is approved, a copy will be returned to your agency. A blank records retention schedule form, with instructions, is available online.


How Do You Provide Access to Government Records?

Granting access to government records is one of the most important services you provide as you fulfill your mission as a government agency or historical society. Minnesota statutes that govern access apply not only to those records that remain in their local jurisdiction, but also to those that are moved to another location or another repository.

What is the responsibility of a local government entity?

As a government entity, you must be in compliance with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. This means you need to designate a responsible authority and a data practices compliance official, and establish your own specific data practices policies and procedures.


Key Resources

Icon Minnesota Historical Society, State Archives
  The State Archives provides information on and assistance with historically valuable government records.
Icon Minnesota Department of Administration, Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD)
  IPAD provides technical assistance and consultation about Minnesota's data practices (Minn. Stat. § 13) and records management acts (Minn. Stat. § 15.7 and § 138.17), and other information policy laws.
Icon Minnesota Historical Society, State Archives, Disaster Preparedness
  This web page contains information on disaster preparedness including prevention, plans, recovery, and links to resources with more information.
Icon Minnesota Historical Society, State Archives Department, Storage Checklist (PDF: 68KB / 1 page)
  This checklist is a tool to evaluate the storage conditions of your facility.
Icon Minnesota Historical Society, State Archives Department, Preserving and Disposing of Government Records (PDF: 256KB / 17 pages)
  Developed for Minnesota government agencies, this overview of the basic principles of records management includes chapters on preserving archival records, defining a government record, taking inventory of your records, developing records retention schedules, disposing of records, and setting up a records storage area. A list of resources for more information is included, as well as information about applicable state law regarding electronic records management. Originally published by the Minnesota Department of Administration in July 2000, the guide was updated jointly by the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota Government Records and Information Network (MNGRIN) in 2008.


Next: The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act