Opportunity for Comment: Transfer Guidance Bulletin

We are requesting comments on a draft of an upcoming NARA Bulletin that replaces all previous guidance on identifying file formats acceptable for use when transferring permanent records to NARA. There are two parts to the draft; the draft Bulletin (.pdf) and an accompanying table of formats (.pdf).

The Bulletin applies to all electronic records that have been scheduled as permanent. It includes a number of changes in the way agencies should select and use file formats while giving more flexibility to agencies. It will include a link to the attached tables with specific file formats that will be updated as needed.

Please make your comments about the draft Bulletin and any suggestions by November 18, 2013. We will review all the comments we receive.

Thank you for your input!

6 thoughts on “Opportunity for Comment: Transfer Guidance Bulletin

  1. Can you provide a list of vendors that are capable of conversion of one format to an acceptable format (example, .MTS to .AVI)

  2. Where should we send the comments? Are copies of the two .pdf files with comments inserted acceptable?



  3. Overall I’m impressed with the improvements in the guidance. There’s one piece that I stumble on: what does “appropriate, professional quality, dedicated photographic equipment” mean? I work in an office that creates photographic images from scenes and subjects (not digitizing photos or text) for documenting and communicating NARA’s business, much of which will be transfered to NARA as permanent records. We use a range of equipment, of which some probably falls in and some falls outside of this vague catagorization. “Appropriate” and “dedicated” seem unnecessary or unreasonable which leaves “professional quality” as the guiding phrase to elicit some desired result. Can you describe cut-offs that divide professional from unprofessional? Do you have examples of specific equipment that falls in or out of this catagory to guide people, especially closer to the dividing line rather than at he obvious extremes?

  4. Mark and Jeff – I know that the format team is going to reach out directly to you to respond to your questions.

  5. I am forwarding detailed comments to the format team. I have some general concerns about these two documents.

    The last sentence of Section 11 of the Format Transfer Bulletin needs to be emphasized:

    “Agencies that maintain records in formats that do not conform to this Bulletin should contact the appropriate NARA office (as listed in Section 11), before migrating, converting, or altering the permanent records to meet the NARA format requirements.”

    Given that the records to be transferred under this guidance are permanent records the over-arching rule should be, “First do no harm.” It would be a very good idea to have a sentence preceding each table that says, “If you do not currently maintain the records in one of the formats listed below please contact the appropriate NARA office before migrating, converting, or altering the permanent records to meet the NARA format requirements.” This would be especially important for Tables 2 through 4.3. The text accompanying these tables include instructions for converting records from analog to digital formats which would seem to contradict the sentence in Section 6 of the Format Transfer Bulletin.

    These documents do not address the case when components needed to render a record or several records are stored in more than one file and those files are in different formats (e.g.,ESRI shape files). The documents should include explicit instructions not to change any of these files without first consulting the appropriate NARA office. Converting one or more of these files to a new format may render the record(s) unrecoverable.

  6. Section 8 of the draft Bulletin concerns “What other steps should I take before transferring permanent electronic records?” In addition to the guidance provided, I recommend NARA staff considering adding an additional bullet which would make clear that, to the extent feasible, agencies should attempt to tag or highlight personally identifiable information (PII) as contained in individual records, in order that NARA staff may perform appropriate redactions prior to opening permanent records up for access to the public. The entire topic of how best to deal with PII content in permanent electronic records transferred pursuant to the 2019 mandate is itself perhaps worthy of a standalone future bulletin.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
    (Views expressed are my own and not necessarily those of any institution I am affiliated with.)

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