This page provides advice on:

  • planning for a move
  • identifying affected records
  • applying disposal classes to affected records
  • moving affected records.

This type of move generally occurs when an organisation moves to new offices, regional offices merge or when parts of one organisation are transferred to another organisation (as a result of administrative change).

You may need to move records as a result of other occurrences. If so, additional issues will need to be considered:

Moving premises - the process for moving records

Once you know you need to move records between premises you should follow this process:

    1. Assess your current situation

    To successfully move records you need to know:

    • what records are affected by the move
    • the formats of records and the equipment needed to access them, e.g. paper, microfilm, magnetic tape, stored on servers etc.
    • how the affected records are controlled and whether they are covered by a current disposal authority
    • where the records are physically located, e.g. in offices, on servers, in onsite or offsite storage facilities, with a commercial storage provider etc.

    You should maintain this information as part of your ongoing records management program. If you don't have this information:

    • interview staff of business units to find out what records they have, where they are kept, and what tools they use to keep track of them, e.g. registers, index cards, spreadsheets
    • do a records inventory. If time permits, do this across the public office. If you have limited time or resources, as a minimum, do an inventory for the affected business functions or sites. Remember also that some records may be stored with commercial storage providers - these must be included on the inventory.
    • contact State Records to find out whether your public office has a current disposal authority or for more advice on any aspects of moving records.

    Carrying out a records inventory

    1. Establish the purpose

    There has been lots written about carrying out records surveys and designing records inventory forms and questionnaires. The starting point is to know for what purpose you are gathering information about the records. In this case it is for moving premises - as a result, the information you require is not as complex as if you were, for example, developing a disposal authority.

    2. Determine the methodology

    It is generally accepted that best results are gained by records management staff carrying out the survey. However this is resource-intensive and is often not practical. The alternative method is to send out questionnaires and ask business managers to complete these and return them. For best results, make sure you:

    • explain clearly the purpose of the exercise
    • design forms for easy use by non-records people
    • if possible, give some training or provide guidance, for example, a completed pro-forma.

    You may adopt a combination of the two methods for different parts of your public office, e.g. administrative functions do self-assessment, core business functions are surveyed by the records management team.

    3. Design the tools

    Bearing in mind the need to keep things simple, State Records has developed some templates that you may customise for use within your public office. You may need to add, amend, or delete as is appropriate to your public office.

    2. Plan the project

    In most cases when a public office or part of it is moving, a project steering group will have been set up to oversee all aspects of the move. Make sure that records are included in their plans. Moving paper records particularly takes a long time to plan and implement. The project team need to be aware of these resource requirements.

    The table below sets out the different elements you need to think about in your planning. The output should be a project plan with milestones to help you keep the project on track. Use the project plan to assign responsibilities to staff involved in the project.

    Note: If your public office has moved locations before, check the records and use this experience to help you plan - this includes things to do, and things not to do!

    Identify... Consider...
    What is happening
    • the reason for the move (this will affect what needs to happen to the records)
    • which site/s and staff are affected
    • when it is scheduled to take place
    • the facilities to which the public office is moving
    Time required to plan and implement the change (or the time available)
    • how long you need to do the job well

    Note: If the timeframe is set for you, then this will affect the amount of staff you need and possibly costs.

    Who will do the work
    • whether the move will be handled by contractors or staff of the public office
    • if contractors, ensuring that the security of records is adequately safeguarded
    Staff resources required (or available) Even if contractors are employed, staff time will be needed to plan, prepare and to evaluate at the other end. Consider,as above:
    • how much staff time you need to do the job in the time available
    • staff needed at different sites and from different parts of the public office, e.g. records team, affected business units/affected sites, HR staff, etc.
    • temporary staff required to do legwork such as packing and labelling. (This may be handled as part of an overall contract). Make sure they get some training!
    • assigning responsibility for tasks.
    Facilities available at new site
    • what is already available
    • what is required
    • budget and equipment to meet the needs
    Other resources required
    • budget required for hiring temporary staff, transportation, temporary packaging, conservation work, etc.
    • insurance for loss or damage during transportation
    • formal contract with contractors carrying out the work with indemnities against loss or damage to records and setting out requirements when handling any personal or confidential information.

    3. Identify affected records

    You need to find out which records are affected by plans to move.

    If it is.. then..
    the whole public office all records (in any format) are affected.
    Note: Records in secondary storage may or may not need to be moved. If not, make sure that their existence is not forgotten and is fully documented in the records control system.
    one or more sites, e.g. a regional office the records created and maintained by that site will be affected. Also find out if they provide storage for the records of other sites of the public office.
    one or more business functions, possibly being outsourced or privatised, e.g. financial services this is the most complex scenario. The records relating to those business functions or units will be affected. These may be dispersed over several sites, depending upon how the business operated. Talk to staff to help identify all affected records. Remember that as well as records of the business function, administrative records may also need to be moved.

    4. Apply retention and disposal authorities to affected records

    Moving premises is often a trigger for public offices to apply approved retention and disposal authorities to their records. This process is known as 'sentencing'. Carrying out sentencing prior to a move will reduce the volume of records to be moved and ensure those records required as State archives are transferred to State Records. It may be a timely opportunity to sentence records in secondary storage.

    Different disposal actions are summarised in the table below. Note that these actions apply to both paper and electronic records. See Implementing a retention and disposal authority for more advice on how to sentence records.

    Note: If time and/or resources are limited, you may not have enough time to carry out disposal processes. It is important that all sentencing and disposal work is carried out in an accountable manner. Undue haste or pressure to reduce the volume of records could result in records being improperly sentenced or illegally destroyed.

    If records are.. then..
    in active use transfer the records with the business unit or function.
    used fairly regularly (semi-active) Transfer the records to storage in the new premises - keeping these records in office accommodation will be wasteful of space and money. As use declines, transfer to secondary storage.
    inactive but NOT eligible for destruction transfer the records to secondary storage, either in-house or a commercial storage provider.
    inactive AND eligible for destruction destroy the records securely and document destruction. For help on secure destruction practices, see Destruction of records.
    required as State archives see below.
    Note: Public offices may keep State archives over 25 years old under a distributed management agreement. Talk to State Records if this is of interest.

    Records that are required as State archives

    If the records are.. then..
    less than 25 years old and still in active use transfer the records with the business function.
    over 25 years old and still in use contact State Records to arrange a 'Still in Use' determination and transfer the records with the business function.
    less than 25 years old and not in active use transfer the records to secondary storage. State Records may accept these records under special circumstances.
    over 25 years old and not in active use transfer the records to State Records. Talk to us about procedures before you start.

    5. Arrange the physical move of affected records

    Once you know which records you need to move and the facilities to which they are moving, then you can organise their relocation.

    Things you need to plan for are set out in the table below.

    Things to consider Involves
    Ordering stores and equipment Working out the type and quantity of boxes/crates or other packing equipment needed. This will depend upon the format of records being moved as well as the quantity, e.g. magnetic tapes, CDs, microfilm, paper files.
    Find out whether you need to order these yourself or whether the moving company (if used) will provide them. If the latter, don't forget to tell the moving company what you need.
    Packing the records Working out what you require in terms of time, space and staff.
    Labelling boxes Deciding on a box labelling system. Make sure ALL boxes are labelled clearly and consistently, e.g. designate a particular location on the box for the label.
    Linking boxes to box contents through control tools - make lists of box contents e.g. in Excel, or generate these from records management software.
    Assigning responsibility for tasks to staff Informing staff involved in the move what they are responsible for and who to go to for help.
    Maintaining records control tools At all times keeping control of what records are being moved, where they were moved from and where they are going. Even if records are being transferred to another public office, you should update your records control tools to show this.
    Striking a formal agreement with contractors Setting out what contractors are required to do, the standards they are to meet and penalties for failing to achieve them.
    Establishing rules and/or procedures for packing and handling records Establishing clear rules to help staff and contractors. See Records in transit: keeping them safe for guidance.
    Transporting the records Obtaining adequate and secure transport at the right time, in the right place and for the right price. See Records in transit: keeping them safe for advice on suitable vehicles.
    Unpacking the records Working out what you require in terms of time, space and staff.

    To help you keep track of records, essential for a successful move, take extra care with:

    • labelling the boxes
    • maintaining location information in records control systems
    • preparing storage areas or equipment in the destination office.

    Moving electronic records

    Moving electronic records is in many way easier than relocating paper records as the physical size is usually small. You may just be moving data, or data storage devices (e.g. CDs, magnetic tapes) and equipment required to use the records may also need to be moved.

    6. Check that records have been successfully moved

    There are two aspects to this final stage:

    1. checking that ALL records that should have been moved:

    • have been moved
    • are undamaged

    2. evaluating your project implementation.

    Checking the records

    First, you should check the records at the new location - both paper and electronic - against the records control tools to check that all the records that were sent from the old premises have arrived at the new premises.

    Next check that systems are working and that records are not damaged. If there are any missing or damaged records, make sure you follow these up as soon as possible. If there is any damage, you may need advice from a conservator or IT professional about treatment or restoration. Early identification will be the best hope for recovery or the prevention of further damage. Talk to:

    • staff of the business unit from which the records came
    • those involved in the transportation
    • staff who packed and listed the records
    • staff who unpacked the records (if different)
    • IT staff.

    It is more difficult to identify damage or to identify if data has been lost in transfer. Work with IT staff to test systems and look for inconsistencies in data and error reports. Carry out sampling of data.

    Evaluating the project

    Secondly, as with any project, evaluate its success on completion. From this you can learn lessons about what went well and what could be done better the next time you face a move. Document this evaluation so that others can learn from your experience.

    Published 2003 / Revised 2016

    Recordkeeping Advice