What to Send to the Archives

There are three main reasons to maintain old records:

Business/operational value to the office that created them
This may be short-term (as soon as a project or task is completed), medium-term (for a few years), long-term or even permanent
Legal requirements
These vary significantly depending on the record, and can last from a few years to indefinitely
Historical value
Maintaining records of permanent historical value is the University Archives’ main purpose



A particular set of records may need to be kept for one, two or all three of these reasons. Generally speaking:

  • Materials that only have short-to-medium term business/operational value to the office that created them will not be sent to the archives.
  • Materials that must be maintained for a period of time due to legal requirements, but that have no permanent business or historical value can be sent to the archives in some circumstances, with the intention that they will be securely destroyed at the end of any retention periods.
  • Materials of permanent historical value should be sent to the archives at the point at which the office that created them is no longer accessing them frequently. All materials sent to the archives will remain available to the office that sends them, although it may take 1-2 business days to retrieve them from our offsite storage facility.

The records management team will work with your particular office and the Office of Legal Counsel to help determine which categories different records you create fall into. The final product of this analysis will generally be a records retention schedule, which includes the following information:

  • A description of the types of materials contained in the set of files or records
  • Who maintains them
  • If and when they should be sent to the archives
  • If and when they should be destroyed

Please contact the Records Management Archivist at records-management@lists.jhu.edu for assistance in identifying how long to retain records and what to send to the archives.

Procedures for Transferring Electronic Records to the Archives

Archives staff will work with you to determine the most appropriate method for transferring electronic records based on the type(s) of records and size. Methods may include a university-approved cloud storage service (such as OneDrive), network transfers, or portable hard drives. Before initiating an electronic records transfer, please contact us at records-management@lists.jhu.edu to discuss options.

Procedures for Transferring Analog (i.e. Paper) Records to the Archives

The archives actively collects records of enduring historical value in all paper and digital formats. The first step to transferring records in any format is to contact the Records Management Archivist at records-management@lists.jhu.edu.

For paper records, once you have verified with the archives that the records should be transferred, follow these steps to prepare for transfer:

    1. Box the materials
      • Use standard letter/legal file boxes, generally about 10” x 12” x 15”.
      • Do not use larger sized boxes, such as 10” x 12” x 24” bankers’ boxes, also know as “coffin” boxes.
      • Do not use empty copy/printer paper boxes.
      • If your office uses metal hanging file folders, you must remove the files from the hanging folders or use boxes that are large enough to accommodate hanging folders without having the metal hangers rest on the box edge. If the files you are sending are to be retained permanently, the archives can provide you with appropriate boxes. Hanging metal folders on box edges reliably results in boxes that crush when they are stacked, risking damage to the records.
      • You are welcome to purchase your own boxes from your preferred office supply source. However, these boxes tend to contain high levels of acid and lignin, and are not appropriate for storing fragile or older materials.
      • Our experience shows that the lower-quality boxes do not survive transport well; the handles tend to tear and the corners buckle. Please consider buying medium- or heavy-duty boxes instead. We can recommend the boxes we use.
      • If the records have been identified for permanent retention, the archives can provide boxes. Please email  records-management@lists.jhu.edu and we can have some delivered, generally within a week.


    2. Label the boxes
      • Label all boxes with your department name.
      • Number the boxes starting with Box 1.
      • Use pen.
      • Write on the short end of the boxes.
      • Make sure your writing is still visible when the lid is on the box.


  • Inventory the contents
    • Excel spreadsheets are strongly ecouraged, but PDF exports from databases, Word documents, copies of Access databases, etc. are also acceptable.
    • At a minimum, the inventory must include the box number, a brief description of contents of each box and an estimated date range for the materials in each box. For example:
Box number Contents Dates
1 Project files related to X Circa 1999-2003
2 President’s outgoing correspondence September – December 2012
  • In most cases, the archives would prefer that the inventory include a list of the title of each file that is in each box.  This is particularly important when a single box contains a wide variety of materials, and it is critical for student files.


  • Notify the archives when the materials are ready for pickup
    • Send an email to records-management@lists.jhu.edu with the the number of boxes,the name and contact information for the person who will coordinate the pickup, and a copy of the inventory you created in step 3.
    • If you know that the files include records whose content is restricted by law, such as student records covered by FERPA, medical records or employee personnel files, include this information when you email the archives.
    • The archives will arrange to have the boxes picked up by the library’s support services department.This can generally be arranged within 1-2 weeks, except for non-Baltimore locations, which are scheduled quarterly.
  • Complete a Records Transfer Agreement
    • The archives will confirm receipt of the files and send you a Records Transfer Agreement via email.
    • Sign the agreement and return it to the archives via email, fax or campus mail.
    • This agreement will include the accession number assigned to your transfer. This number is very important; knowing it will make it easier to ask for specific boxes or folders to be returned to you in the future.