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What is a Record?

[Federal] Records include all books, papers, maps, photographs, machine readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an Agency of the United States Government under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that Agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government or because of the informational value in them.

(Taken from 44 U.S.C. Chapter 33, Sec. 3301)

Several key terms, phrases, and concepts in the statutory definition of records are defined as follows:

  • Documentary materials is a collective term for records, nonrecord materials, and personal papers that refers to all media containing recorded information, regardless of the nature of the media or the method(s) or circumstance(s) of recording.
  • Regardless of physical form or characteristics means that the medium may be paper, film, disk, or other physical type or form; and that the method of recording may be manual, mechanical, photographic, electronic, or any other combination of these or other technologies.
  • Made means the act of creating and recording information by Agency personnel in the course of their official duties, regardless of the method(s) or the medium involved. The act of recording is generally identifiable by the circulation of the information to others or by placing it in files accessible to others.
  • Received means the acceptance or collection of documentary materials by Agency personnel in the course of their official duties regardless of their origin (for example, other units of their Agency, private citizens, public officials, other agencies, contractors, Government grantees) and regardless of how transmitted (in person or by messenger, mail, electronic means, or by any other method). In this context, the term does not refer to misdirected materials. It may or may not refer to loaned or seized materials depending on the conditions under which such materials came into Agency custody or were used by the Agency. Advice of legal counsel should be sought regarding the "record" status of loaned or seized materials.
  • Preserved means the filing, storing, or any other method of systematically maintaining documentary materials by the Agency. This term covers materials not only actually filed or otherwise systematically maintained but also those temporarily removed from existing filing systems.
  • Appropriate for preservation means documentary materials made or received which in the judgment of the Agency should be filed, stored, or otherwise systematically maintained by an Agency because of the evidence of Agency activities or information they contain, even though the materials may not be covered by its current filing or maintenance procedures.

(Taken from the Code of Federal Regulations Part 1222, Subpart A, Sec. 1222.10)

What You Should Know About Records Management

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