- What is distributed management?
- Purpose of distributed management agreements
- Key requirements for distributed management agreements
- Contents of a distributed management agreement
- Negotiating a distributed management agreement
'Distributed management' of State archives is an alternative to the standard option of transferring records to NSW State Archives and Records' custody. Under the distributed management model, State records still become State archives when 'control' passes to NSW State Archives and Records, but the records remain in the custody of another person. In most cases this will involve the responsible public office or a repository (such as a regional repository) storing and managing State archives by agreement with NSW State Archives and Records.
Distributed management arrangements can cover records in any format or geographical location, but they are likely to be particularly relevant in cases where electronic records have to be managed as State archives, or where records of regional or community significance generated outside Sydney should be kept in the locality to which they relate. Apart form the holdings of regional repositories, collections that might be managed in this way could include the 'in-house archives' of some local councils, universities and cultural institutions.
This advice introduces public offices to the concept of distributed management of State archives and outlines the requirements that must be met when setting up a distributed management agreement.
Under Part 4 ('Authority entitled to control of State records not currently in use') of the State Records Act 1998, there are two main ways in which inactive State records of continuing value can be managed over time:
- NSW State Archives and Records can take custody of the records
- a public office may enter into an agreement with NSW State Archives and Records for ‘another person’ to have custody of the records.
Under the distributed management model, State records still become State archives when ‘control’ passes to NSW State Archives and Records. Unlike ‘standard’ transfer arrangements, however, this does not involve the records coming into the custody of NSW State Archives and Records. Instead, the records are kept in the custody of another person. In most cases, this is either the responsible public office, or a repository (such as a regional repository) which stores and manages State archives on NSW State Archives and Records’ behalf.
Before this option can be exercised, a distributed management agreement under s.30(1) and s.36 of the State Records Act 1998 must be negotiated with NSW State Archives and Records.
Distributed management agreements can cover records in all formats, but they are likely to be particularly relevant in cases where electronic records have to be managed as State archives.
The underpinning aim of Part 4 of the State Records Act is that records of continuing value that are no longer in use for official purposes are controlled and properly managed as State archives regardless of who has possession or custody.
In practical terms, the major aim of distributed management agreements is to ensure that State archives that remain outside the custody of NSW State Archives and Records are:
- stored securely
- preserved in sound condition
- documented adequately
- made accessible to the public.
These records must be managed in accordance with standard principles of archives management, and the provisions of the State Records Act and associated standards, guidelines, codes of best practice and procedures.
Public offices wishing to manage State archives under a distributed management agreement need to satisfy NSW State Archives and Records that they will be able to meet the relevant requirements set out below. The requirements have been developed to ensure that the records are managed according to the same standards as if they were in NSW State Archives and Records’ custody. A public office that is considering initiating a distributed management agreement as an option needs to determine whether it can meet these requirements.
Distributed management agreements can cover a wide variety of situations, from a small quantity of records administered by the responsible public office to a large regional repository holding several linear kilometres of records. They can also cover paper records only, ‘mixed’ formats, or only electronic records.
The requirements set out below are intended only as a guide to what may be included in distributed management agreements. NSW State Archives and Records can provide advice about the requirements that would apply in specific cases.
Storage and preservation
The fundamental responsibility of a custodian of State archives is to ensure that they are stored and preserved to appropriate standards. Important requirements are:
- Environmental conditions must conform to the relevant provisions of the Standard on the physical storage of State records.
- State archives must be covered by a current disaster management plan.
- The records must be maintained in sound physical condition, and any conservation or imaging is to be done in accordance with accepted international best practice, after consultation with NSW State Archives and Records.
- Records that are too fragile to issue should be withheld from access in accordance with s.59 of the State Records Act. Appropriate arrangements should be made for preservation and/or copying of such material, in consultation with NSW State Archives and Records.
- Technology dependent (including electronic) records must be maintained in systems which will protect their integrity as records over time.
Control and documentation
- All State archives must be clearly identified and covered by a current retention and disposal authority.
- Inactive State records must be transferred formally to the control of NSW State Archives and Records and will be recorded in NSW State Archives and Records’ control system.
- State archives covered by a distributed management agreement are to be described and listed (where appropriate) in accordance with NSW State Archives and Records’ requirements.
- The public office must keep a record of all transfers of control of records as State archives and ensure that the ‘State archives’ status of relevant records is recorded in its control records/systems.
- Usage by the public office's staff and physical handling of State archives must be in accordance with NSW State Archives and Records’ policies and procedures.
- Special requirements will apply for electronic systems that include State archives (covering issues such as conformity with relevant standards, migration, consultation/notification, reporting, dispute resolution and costs).
Public offices will need to satisfy NSW State Archives and Records that appropriate arrangements can be made for the management of public access before a distributed management agreement can be finalised (s.36). Particular points to note include:
- All State archives should be covered by a current access direction (in the case of records more than 30 years old, this is a mandatory requirement).
- Details of access directions must be available to the public through the public office, and forwarded to NSW State Archives and Records for inclusion in the register of access directions. More detailed guidance to assist public offices in this area can be found in the Attorney General’s guidelines, Making access directions under Part 6 of the State Records Act 1998 and in NSW State Archives and Records' Procedures for making access directions.
- In some cases, a public office managing State archives under a distributed management agreement may also have transferred State records to the control and custody of NSW State Archives and Records. Where such records are open to public access, they should be available for inspection in NSW State Archives and Records’ Search Room unless otherwise specified in an agreement.
- Technology dependent records must be accessible in line with the obligation placed on public offices by s.14 of the State Records Act.
Qualifications and training of staff
The qualifications necessary for staff responsible for managing State archives may vary according to the nature of the operation. A designated ‘archival operation’, whether small (as in the archives of a major City-based museum) or large (such as a substantial regional repository), should have at least one person with appropriate recordkeeping/archives qualifications. In cases where managing a small quantity of records in a public office is only part of an officer’s responsibility, it may be adequate for that officer to have attended a number of training courses offered by NSW State Archives and Records. This would be particularly relevant in instances where the responsible officer does not have specific records management responsibilities and the primary task relating to the State archives is administering access.
Details of individual distributed management agreements will vary in accordance with the nature of the operation/service provided and the types of records covered. Basic information would include:
- name and address of the public office
- contact details of the officer responsible for managing/providing access to the records
- contact details of the Corporate Records Manager (if that position does not have immediate responsibility for the records)
- details of the third party who may have custody of the records (where applicable)
- relevant retention and disposal authority
- records covered by the agreement
- physical location and quantity of the records.
Additional information will be required if the agreement covers electronic records. The final agreement will also include the relevant requirements relating to storage, preservation, archives control and documentation and public access.
It is essential that NSW State Archives and Records be notified when there are any significant changes to contact details, such as a transfer of responsibility to a different branch or position within the public office or to another public office.
There are many issues to be addressed if a public office wishes to enter into a distributed management agreement with NSW State Archives and Records. If you are interested in keeping your archives through a distributed management agreement please contact: