General Questions

What is a Public Record?

The term "public records" is broadly defined to include "books, papers, maps, photographs, recorded tapes, financial statements, statistical tabulations, or other documentary materials or data, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by any" public employee. For a complete definition, see MGL c. 4, § 7 (26).

What is a Records Retention Schedule?

A Records Retention Schedule is a listing of records series and the minimum amount of time that the records must be retained. This minimum period for retention is determined through analysis of business needs, legal and fiscal requirements and historical significance. Records creators may retain records for longer periods of time as needed or required.

What records are covered by these schedules?

The Municipal Records Retention Schedule applies to all records of municipal government in Massachusetts.

The Statewide schedule applies to all records of state government including those of executive departments, constitutional offices, authorities, independent agencies, and state records being managed by contracted service providers.

Do these schedules apply to electronic records?

These schedules applies to all types of records, regardless of media or format, including those found in electronic form, audiotape, and hardcopy.

My records have reached the full retention period. What do I do now?

Once records have reached their full retention period, you can apply for permission to destroy these records. If you are working with Municipal Records, complete this form and submit it to the Supervisor of Public Records at rmu@sec.state.ma.us.

If you are working with State Agency records, complete this form and submit it to the Records Conservation Board at rcb@sec.state.ma.us.

What do I do if my records are listed as PERMANENT?

Permanent records are to be retained for the life of the Commonwealth, and must be maintained in an accessible form.

Records created by state agencies that are designated as PERMANENT are eligible for transfer to the Massachusetts Archives.

Permanent municipal records must be retained within the municipality.

What if I have older records or records that have special historical importance?

Massachusetts General Laws, ch. 66, § 8 requires permanent retention of any records dating before 1870. Records older than fifty years old may require retention periods that differ from those listed in this schedule. Please contact the Records Management Unit to arrange for a review of any records that are fifty years old or older.

What does ADMIN USE mean?

ADMIN USE is short for Administrative Use. This designation means that a record only needs to be retained until it is no longer of use within the originating agency or office. Permission from the Records Conservation Board or the Supervisor of Public Records is not required before destruction of these types of records.

What is the statutory authority for the Retention Schedule?

The Massachusetts Statewide Retention Schedule is produced under the statutory provisions of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 4, § 7(26), c. 30 § 42, and c. 66, §§ 1, 8 and 9.