Archival Records FAQs

A record is information created or received by an institution that serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the institution.

A record can take many different forms, and can be either physical or digital. These forms include but are not limited to:

  • Paper documents and publications
  • Photographs, slides, contact sheets, and negatives
  • Audio and audiovisual recordings such as audiocassette tapes, CDs, 8 mm film, 16 mm film, VHS tapes, U-Matic tapes, Betacam tapes, and DVDs
  • Drawings, sketches, and portraits
  • Maps, floorplans, and blueprints
  • Textiles, including medical uniforms and other institutional clothing
  • Artifacts, such as medical equipment and tools developed by Duke
  • Electronic files and emails

There are certain materials that do not count as records for the purposes of the Duke University Medical Center (DUMC) and the Duke University Medical Center Archives (DUMCA), including:

  • Patient records
  • Non-DUMC publications, such as books and journals
  • Duplicates of records already held at the DUMCA
  • Most financial documents, including purchase orders, receipts, payroll documentation, and travel authorizations
  • Personnel records
  • Grade student work
  • Junk mail
  • Spam
  • Drafts
  • Short-term records
  • Active records

The Records Lifecycle Model refers to the different stages that a record goes through over the course of its lifespan. Understanding the lifecycle of a record can help records managers determine the value and use of a record at a given point in time. There are three major stages in the lifecycle of a record

  1. Creation and/or receipt – A person, office, or department at DUMC produces or receives a record
  2. Maintenance and use – Records are used and distributed by DUMC in order to fulfill their designated function. While records are in use, they are stored and organized with similar material.
  3. Disposition – Records are evaluated after they are no longer in active use. Based on the Duke University Health System (DUHS) Records Retention Schedule and DUMCA’s Records Retention Guidelines, some records are destroyed immediately while other records are to be stored for a designated period of time before facing final disposition. Records determined to have enduring historic or administrative value should be transferred to DUMCA for permanent preservation.

DUMC produces many different types of records for a wide variety of purposes on a daily basis. Some of these records only have value for a designated period of time. These records can be disposed of according to the DUHS Records Retention Schedule and DUMCA’s Records Retention Guidelines. Other records have enduring historical value and are preserved by DUMCA for future use.

  • An Active Record is a record currently in use by the office, department, or other division of DUMC that originally created or received it. Active records remain active for varying lengths of time, based on their purpose and the requirements established by the DUHS Record Retentions Schedule and DUMCA’s Records Retention Guidelines.
  • An Inactive Record is a record that is no longer in use as an Active Record but still must be maintained according to the timelines established by the DUHS Records Retention Schedule and DUMCA’s Records Retention Guidelines. Inactive records that have exceeded the established time limit and have enduring institutional and historical value are maintained by DUMCA.
  • An Archival Record is a record that has permanent historical or institutional value, is inactive, and is not required to be retained in the division of DUMC that originally created or received it. For more information about what constitutes permanent historical or institutional value, consult the Guidelines for Archival Value or contact DUMCA staff at 919-383-2653 or dumc.archives@mc.duke.edu.
  • An Electronic Record is a record kept in an electronic format. An Electronic Record can be an Active Record, Inactive Record, or an Archival Record. This record type is also subject to the Records Lifecycle and follows the same records retention guidelines established by the DUHS Records Retention Schedule and DUMCA’s Records Retention Guidelines. Types of Electronic Records may include:
      • Word processor documents, multimedia files, spreadsheets, databases, and HTML documents
      • Scanned or imaged documents
      • Files stored online, on a mainframe, or on a computer hard drive
      • Files stored on any external storage medium, including floppy disks, zip drives, compact discs, thumb drives, and external hard drives
      • Emails, which function as a digital form of DUMC correspondence
      • Web content, such as websites and social media

Materials that are considered to have enduring administrative and historical value by DUMCA include records that document the operations of Duke Health and its schools, programs, and partners. Other records of enduring historical value are those that document significant developments in medical science, care, research, and education, as well records produced by Duke Health faculty, staff, and departments who have made significant contributions to the medical field and/or society as a whole. Archival Records of permanent historical value collected by DUMCA include but are not limited to:

  1. Papers of the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellors, and Deans' offices, including all statements of policy, reports, correspondence, speeches, committee minutes, publicity materials, business files, and memoranda (including email as appropriate).
  2. Records from administrative and academic offices, such as correspondence, annual reports, final grant reports, self-study reports, policy statements and planning documents, symposium or colloquium files, newsletters and publications.
  3. Faculty meeting minutes.
  4. Personal papers of faculty and staff, including correspondence, subject files, speeches, presentations, and photographs.
  5. Medical Center publications, such as catalogs, newspapers, yearbooks, research magazines, newsletters, brochures, programs, and posters.
  6. Films, recordings, tapes, and photographs produced by the Medical Center, including samplings of such records done as part of teaching programs.
  7. Course syllabi and other curriculum records.
  8. Student organization records, such as minutes, publications, and photographs.
  9. Records related to medical research.

Some materials are not considered records for the collecting purposes of DUMCA, or do not have sufficient enduring historical and administrative value to warrant ongoing preservation as an Archival Record.

Materials that are not collected by DUMCA include:

  • Patient records
  • Non-DUMC publications, such as books and journals
  • Duplicates of records already held at the DUMCA
  • Most financial documents, including purchase orders, receipts, payroll documentation, and travel authorizations
  • Personnel records
  • Grade student work
  • Junk mail
  • Spam
  • Drafts
  • Short-term records
  • Active records

If you have any questions concerning the permanence of records and what is considered an Archival Record by DUMCA, contact DUMCA staff at 919-383-2653 or dumc.archives@mc.duke.edu.

Some records contain information that is considered restricted or confidential. Depending on how the record is classified by the DUHS Records Retention Schedule and DUMCA’s Records Retention Guidelines, records containing this information should either be destroyed after use or maintained with access restrictions by DUMCA.

  • Personally Identifiable Information (PII) refers to information that may be used alone or in conjunction with another piece of information to assume the identity of another person, access financial resources, or obtain credit information. PII is highly sensitive and must be safeguarded and secured at all times. PII may include:
    • Social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, or other government identification card numbers
    • Financial account numbers and credit or debit card numbers
  • Protected Health Information (PHI) refers to personally identifiable health information created or received by a health care provider, health care plan, or health care clearinghouse. Access to records containing PHI is regulated by the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) establishes the conditions under which records containing PHI may be used or disclosed for research purposes. Oftentimes, this disclosure and use is dependent upon either the de-identification of individuals’ PHI, the consent of those individuals, approval of the Institutional Review Board (IRB), or some combination thereof.
  • The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the rights of students and parents to access their own student records kept by the school, and restricts access to those records by others without the permission of the student or parents.
  • Medical Center Administrative Records refers to records created and received by the officers of the University, as defined in the Bylaws, the deans of schools and colleges, and departments, institutes, and other offices as designated by the President. For the first twenty-five years after these records are created, use of the materials requires permission in writing from the director of the office of record and a member of DUMCA staff.
  • Records of the Board of Trustees refers to records created or received by the DUMC Board of Trustees, its Executive Committee, and its standing and ad hoc committees. For the first fifty years after these records are created, use of the materials requires special permission in writing from the DUMC Board of Trustees.

For more information about accessing restricted materials held by DUMCA, call 919-383-2653 or email dumc.archives@mc.duke.edu.

Consult our Records Retention Guidelines [add link] for more information about different DUMC record types, including how long these records remain active and are retained after becoming inactive, and how and when to either dispose of these records or transfer them to the custody of DUMCA. For more information regarding transferring records to DUMCA, consult our Records Transfer Instructions.

DUMCA staff is available for consultation regarding record types, retention, disposal, restriction, and transfer at 919-383-2653 or dumc.archives@mc.duke.edu.