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Identify records with permanent archival, enduring or intrinsic value

The Records Governance Policy (external) has replaced Information Standard 31: Retention and disposal of public records, and Information Standard 40: Recordkeeping. These information standard have been repealed.

Any references to IS31 and IS40 may be taken as a reference to the current Records Governance Policy if the context permits.

Read more about the changes and what they mean for your recordkeeping practices.

1. Identify permanent archival value records using QSA’s appraisal statement

The QSA’s Appraisal Statement (PDF, 697 KB) gives the criteria QSA uses to appraise permanent archival or enduring value records—for example, records that document the primary functions of government or make a substantial contribution to community memory.

Archival or enduring value

A record of enduring value must be identified and retained in a useable form, regardless of whether the records are in the custody of QSA or an agency. 

Archival or enduring value is the ongoing usefulness or significance of records based on the evidential, administrative, financial, legal, informational and historical values that justify the permanent retention of records.

These records have enduring value to the state of Queensland, the relevant agency, the community, and/or Australia as a whole and therefore need to be kept indefinitely. 

Under disposal authorisations authorised by the State Archivist, records of enduring value have the status of permanent and are transferred to QSA once business use has ceased.

Identifying records with archival or enduring value

Identifying permanent archival or enduring value records is based on the 6 characteristics in the appraisal statement.

  1. Authority, foundation and structure of government
  2. Primary functions and programs of government
  3. Enduring rights and entitlements
  4. Significant impact on individuals
  5. Substantial contribution to community memory
  6. Environmental management and change

Some characteristics will contain a qualification that a particular action, issue and/or impact must be 'significant'.

The following factors contribute to the degree of their significance:

  • aesthetic or artistic impact
  • economic impact
  • environmental impact
  • extent of the population affected
  • Government expenditure or commitment
  • international reaction
  • political or legal ramifications
  • public reaction or sensitivity
  • public safety implications
  • social or cultural impact
  • extent of profound changes to lives of individuals, families or communities.

2. Identify permanent archival or enduring value records based on other characteristics

Records may need to be kept permanently or in their original format based on inherent value beyond the information they contain (e.g. its physical qualities, format). These records may not technically meet the characteristics in the appraisal statement (PDF, 697 KB) but may be of permanent value anyway.

Use the following characteristics to determine if records have permanent archival value beyond the appraisal characteristics.

Aesthetic or artistic quality

Includes manuscripts, photographs, pencil, ink, or watercolour sketches, maps and architectural drawings, and engraved or printed forms, such as bounty-land warrants.

Consider:

  • quality of the craftsmanship
  • representative value of a style, design, artistic movement or an artist’s work
  • originality or innovation
  • depiction of a subject, person, place, activity or event of interest or importance
  • importance of the artist, writer, designer or creator
  • evidence of outstanding artistic, design, innovation or technical accomplishment.

Artefactual quality

Some records should be preserved in their original format. This may be because they:

  • are of historical significance (e.g. original proclamations)
  • relate to a significant person or place (e.g. a document signed by a prime minister)
  • are evidence of technological development
  • have unique, curious, or historical physical features or formats (e.g. early press copies, glass-plate negatives and wax-cylinder sound recordings).

Physical features that are unique, curious, or historically significant might include:

  • texture of paper, wax seals, imprints and watermarks
  • inks
  • early or unusual bindings.

Permanent value based on this criteria is rare. Only a representative selection of a particular physical form or feature will be accepted as permanent archival value as it involves the preservation of a particular form for its value as an artefact.

Complementary value/relationship to existing holdings

Records that compliment and add research value to an existing series in the custody of QSA may be considered to have archival value.

Usually records that fit this criteria will also meet one of the main appraisal characteristics.

Rarity and/or uniqueness

Older records can be more significant than more recent records documenting the same function or activity. They may:

  • be the only public records that exist for a particular geographic area or activity
  • document functions and activities that differ from the current responsibilities of the public authority
  • be unique records that provide details of a different time and place which are valuable to researchers
  • provide the only evidence of a public authority that no longer exists.

Records may be rare or unique for other reasons. For example, they may be the only surviving records of a significant event, disaster or incident.

3. Identify significant, major and permanent records

Some records may need to be sentenced as ‘significant’ or ‘major’ to separate the permanent records from other minor records that only need to be retained temporarily.

Significance is based on evaluative judgements, the context, the government activity being undertaken and the level of their impact on the government or the community.

To decide which records are 'significant' or 'major', look at the issues, incidents, decisions or events the records document.

The following questions will help you decide.

  • Does the activity, event, or decision:
    • set a precedent
    • have considerable economic, environmental or social impact
    • lead to a change in government policy
    • demonstrate an innovative or important project or program
    • arouse wide scale public interest or controversy
    • encourage wide community or media interest or scrutiny
    • capture a unique event or point in time for your agency, state or community?
  • Would destroying the records mean a loss of important information to the people of Queensland?
  • Has the value or significance of the records increased since they were created or first sentenced?

Check the schedule for definitions of terms 'significant', 'substantial' and 'major'. These definitions should be tailored to the specific contents and will help you determine if records fall under the ‘significant’ record class or not.

The appraisal log should also contain justification for significant record classes and provide further information to help you sentence records based on significance.

Some records sentenced as temporary on creation may become permanent over time (e.g. after legal proceedings or a change in community expectations). You can include the probability of records becoming permanent in a risk assessment. Take into account the percentage of similar records that were sentenced as temporary on creation but became permanent.

Read more about determining what records are significant.

See an example of sentencing significant records.

4. Identify records with intrinsic value

Records with intrinsic value will have many similar characteristics as enduring value but may not have a permanent retention period.

Intrinsic value refers to the special qualities and characteristics of the original medium that contribute to the record’s significance.

The characteristics that make the record special could be lost or diminished if the physical source record is destroyed and only the content is retained.

Intrinsic value records include those:

  • with significant aesthetic or format-based value (e.g. artwork or hand written ledger from previous centuries with examples of lost handwriting styles)
  • of utmost personal significance to the subject of the record (e.g. handwritten letters within an adoption file)
  • of historical significance (e.g. original proclamations)
  • relating to a significant person or place (e.g. a document signed by a prime minister)
  • that are the surviving records of a significant event/disaster/incident which saw the disposal of records  with special qualities and characteristics that could be lost or diminished if the original source record is digitised, converted or migrated into another medium
  • where physical characteristics contribute to its status as a complete and reliable record
  • required to be produced, kept or accessible in its original format for the full retention period (as opposed to a digitised or converted version)
  • that provide an emotional connection to the creator, or have display or exhibition qualities.

The intrinsic value of a record may be separate from its information value and the intrinsic value may be lost or diminished if replaced by a copy. A record of intrinsic value may have either the status of permanent or temporary under a disposal authorisation issued by the State Archivist.

5. Pre-1950s records and records older than 25 years

Records created before 1950 or more than 25 years old with a temporary value in an authorised retention and disposal schedule do not need to be referred to QSA before they can be destroyed.

If you have any temporary value records, including those created before 1950, and have doubts or reservations about their temporary status, you can:

This will help you to determine if they are of permanent value.

6. Request a special appraisal decision

If you think that a temporary retention period in an approved schedule does not apply to the records you are sentencing, either because it is incorrect or because different circumstances apply to the records (e.g. they were created in a different context), refer to the appraisal log (if available) or the QSA appraisal statement (PDF, 697 KB).

If the records meet one or more of the appraisal statement criteria, complete the special circumstances appraisal form (DOCX, 130 KB) and send it to rkqueries@archives.qld.gov.au. We can then assess the records and determine if they are of permanent archival value and should be transferred to QSA.