Agency Responsibilities for Managing Web Records

We sent the following message to Federal agencies this morning.

MEMORANDUM TO FEDERAL AGENCIES CONTACTS: Agency Responsibilities for Managing Web Records at the End of the Administration

Agencies must identify and manage all Federal records on agency websites in accordance with NARA guidance. We remind all agencies that this includes scheduling and disposition of web content, including data sets.

NARA will neither conduct, nor require, a government-wide harvest (i.e., capture) of Federal agency websites as we last did in 2004. Since then, the Internet landscape and agencies’ use of the Internet has changed dramatically. NARA believes agencies are equipped to properly manage these digital Federal records. To help agencies do this, NARA has issued guidance for the scheduling, managing, and transfer of web records in NARA Guidance on Managing Web Records and Format Guidance for the Transfer of Permanent Records.

Managing Federal web records is especially important when agencies make significant changes to their web content, such as when they update pages relating to agency leadership or when their website undergoes a significant re-design. Agencies are required to manage these records, including scheduling and transferring them to NARA if they are appraised by NARA as permanent records. These requirements and responsibilities are discussed in detail in NARA’s web guidance.

We are aware that Federal agency websites are harvested and made available through non-Federal “archiving” organizations. Archiving efforts by these organizations (unless done under contract with an agency for records management purposes) do not relieve an agency of its obligations to manage its records in accordance with the Federal Records Act.

NARA’s records management operations are focused on identifying, appraising, scheduling, and transferring Federal records of permanent value. We believe that working with agencies to identify and schedule web records will result in the preservation of those records that are historically valuable and worthy of permanent retention for future generations of researchers.

In many cases, websites contain databases or datasets.  We remind agencies that such data, or the systems in which they reside, must be scheduled as Federal records. On the other hand, many records presented on agency websites are already scheduled and captured in agency systems that are properly scheduled in accordance with the Federal Records Act. Agencies must be able to identify situations in which this is the case.

If you have questions about NARA’s guidance on web records, please contact your agency’s NARA appraisal archivist.


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