SAA Session 301: “‘Capstone Officials’ and Public Records: Risk, Buy-in, and Archival Selection”

This session used NARA’s Capstone approach to email as a starting point for discussing the collection of all sorts of records from senior officials.

Arian Ravanbakhsh (NARA) provided the background to the Capstone policy.  The journey began in 2011 with the Presidential Memorandum on Managing Government Records that aimed to modernize records management in the federal government.  Many directives and bulletins later, we have the Capstone policy.  He asserted the biggest failure of records management is user-dependent policies.  Therefore, the big benefit of Capstone is preserving permanent email records automatically.  The Capstone policy has three categories:

  • permanent retention for senior officials (agency head and deputy, “C” (chiefs), executives, directors of major programs, directors of presidential libraries)
  • 7-year temporary retention for non-Capstone officials
  • 3-year temporary retention for support and/or administrative positions

Mike Strom, the State Archivist of Wyoming, reported that their state IT department archives email for an indeterminate length of time – none of which to this point has been transferred to the state archives.  They have defined Capstone officials as elected officials, agency directors, and deputy directors.  All records of elected officials are deemed permanent, while records from agency directors and deputy directors come to the State Records Center for appraisal and disposition.  Wyoming has recently revised its retention schedules, shifting from agency-driven to function-based schedules and dramatically reducing the number of items (from 8000 to 600).  Strom suggested some disadvantages to functional schedules are that changing a schedule affects numerous agencies and the system doesn’t allow for special circumstances.  They have determined that general correspondence (related to day-to-day office administration and not identified in other records series) can be destroyed three years after date of creation.

Jim Cundy reported that the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives has defined their Capstone officials as agency heads (”the individual or collegial body in an agency that is responsible for entry of a final order”).  In addition, anything the Governor’s office sends is considered a permanent record.

Ruth Bryan, of the University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center, said they consider faculty Capstone officials because of their role in University life.  To date, the University hasn’t decided what to do with adjunct/non-tenured faculty.  They consider faculty papers public records that document both scholarship and academic functions.  Faculty records are appraised, and student-related records are discarded.  Products of scholarship are faculty-owned and are not subject to retention schedules.

Tamar Chute (Ohio State University Archives) said their state universities were removed from the state records management system in 1992 and paid a consulting firm to create a general records retention schedule.  On that university schedule, Capstone officials/upper administration include the president, provosts, vice presidents, deans and directors, department chairs, and head coaches.  They’ve had the situation of needing to determine whether artifacts are university records.  In typical records management fashion, it depends!

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