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Records Management in the Government of the District of Columbia: GENERAL RECORDS MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

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Information about the Office of Public Records

The Office of Public Records is mandated by DC Law 6-19 and the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations, Title 1, Chapter 15, to review and approve agency records retention schedules; train records officers in implementing the policies, procedures, and guidelines of managing records; collect, store, preserve, conserve and service historical records in the custody of the Archives; collect, store and service temporary records in the custody of the Records Center; and collect, store and service publications in the custody of the Library of Government Information. 

Public Records and Archive Services is managed and administered through the Office of Public Records and Archives.

Service Details: 

Deeds, Land and Property



Historical Documents

Research Building Permits and Architectural Plans

Related Services: 

District of Columbia Archives

Library of Government Information

Public Records Center

Service Contact: 

Office of Public Records, Administrator

Contact Email:

Contact Phone: (202) 671-1105

Contact Fax: (202) 727-6076

Contact TTY: 711

Office Hours: Monday to Friday 8:15 am to 4:45 pm

Service Location: 

GIS Address: 

1300 Naylor Court, NW

Washington, DC 20001

Office of the Secretary - OS

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Office Hours
Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm

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1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 419, Washington, DC 20004
Phone: (202) 727-6306
Fax: (202) 727-3582
TTY: 711
Alternate Number: Notary: (202) 727-3117

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Ask the Secretary of the District of Columbia

Agency Performance


Kimberly A. Bassett

Kimberly A. Bassett

Secretary of the District of Columbia


THE IMPORTANCE OF RECORDS: Records are the institutional memory of government. Every agency is responsible for creating and maintaining records that adequately document the organization, functions, policies, procedures and major activities of that agency. An agency's records should reflect the evolution of agency policies and decisions, provide the information needed by successor officials to make intelligent decisions and provide a lasting record of the unique contributions of the agency. Proper records must be kept to document the financial and legal commitments and interests of the government and of its citizens and to permit oversight of an agency's activities.


RECORDS MANAGEMENT: It is not only important that every agency create and maintain adequate documentation, but also that it provide for the proper disposition of its records by adopting a comprehensive records management program. Such a program establishes controls over records from the time of their creation to the time of their final disposition. It seeks to (a) provide for the timely and systematic removal of inactive records from an agency and the eventual destruction of those of a temporary nature after an appropriate length of time; and (b) identify those records of such historical or other importance that they should be preserved permanently in the District of Columbia Archives. A records management program is vital to the efficient and economical operation of government. Without it, offices would be drowning in records, at tremendous costs to the government in space, filing equipment, staff and general efficiency of operations.

Laws and Standards Governing Records Management and Archival Preservation

Laws and Standards Governing Records Management and Archival Preservation:


RECORDS SCHEDULES: The records schedule forms the heart of a good records management system. A schedule identifies those records of continuing value that are suitable for accessioning into the D.C. Archives and authorizes agencies to destroy those records of temporary importance. A schedule is a detailed timetable that specifies the length of time records should be kept in an active and inactive status prior to their final disposition. It prescribes how long a record should be maintained within an office before it may be destroyed, moved to low cost storage in the Records Center, or transferred to the Archives to be preserved permanently.

There are two types of records schedules: (1) agency retention schedules, and (2) general records schedules.

(1) Agency Retention Schedules: An agency retention schedule is based on a survey of the specific records created and maintained in the various offices and its disposition instructions are tailored to those records unique to the agency. It provides legal authority for the disposition of the official records of this agency alone.
(2) General Records Schedules: In addition to agency records schedules, there are also general records schedules. These schedules provide disposition authority for records common to several or all agencies of government. They cover records relating to personnel, fiscal functions, accounting, budget, procurement, communications, printing and other common or housekeeping functions. An office has full authority to implement the disposition instructions of a general records schedule and is encouraged to follow these terms to the greatest extent possible. However, the General schedule does not apply to documents dated before January 1, 1921. Records dated earlier than 1921, must be appraised by D.C. Archives before they can be destroyed.

The Requirements for DC Government Records Schedules can be found here

Frequently Asked Questions

In order to understand and apply the records retention schedule, it is important to define certain terms and procedures that are used in records management.

Can we make Additions or Deletions? Requests for additions or deletions of records from this schedule must be directed, in writing, to the Agency Records Officer. All modifications must be approved by the Office of Public Records.

When to Amend an Agency Records Schedule? An agency schedule is not a static document, but must be reviewed and revised on a regular basis. The organization of an agency, its functions, and programs are constantly changing and the schedule must be continually updated to incorporate these changes. Amendments to agency schedules may be initiated either by the agency or by the D.C. Archives. As a rule, an agency should review its schedule yearly to insure that it is up-to-date and provides for the disposition of all series of records not covered by the general records schedules.

What are Public Records? Public records are defined by District of Columb1a law as "any book, paper, map, photograph, card, tape, recording, microform, motion picture, sound recording, computer disk, tape, or other machine-readable medium or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, created or received by an agency or unit of the District in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business."

What is a Record? Records are made or received by an office as it conducts its business. They relate directly to the mission of an agency and document the function of an agency. Although a paper document is the most common form of records, a record can be of any physical characteristic. Computer tapes and disks, sound and video recordings, photographs and motion picture film, microfilm, maps and charts, may each constitute an official record."

Who Owns the Records? Records as defined above belong to the District of Columbia. In no sense are they the personal property of an individual. They may not be destroyed except under legal procedures established by the government. One of the major purposes of an approved agency records schedule is to provide authority for the legal disposition of official records.

What are Permanent Records? Permanent records are record material considered so valuable or unique in documenting the history of the Agency or District or for other reasons that they must be preserved permanently.

What are Audit Records? Audit records are on-site fiscal record material created by the Agency supporting expenditures made in connection with Federal grant programs and other revenue producing programs. They include vouchers, contracts, schedules, statements of transactions and accountability, records supporting agency expenditures, collection of revenue, etc. Audit records must be retained by the agency for sufficient time to allow an audit if an audit is necessary.

What is Non-record Material? Not every document in an office is considered an official record. The following types of material are usually considered non-record: duplicate copies of documents; pamphlets, books, printed reports and other materials maintained for reference purposes; reference copies of Mayor's Orders, Mayor's Memoranda and the D.C. Register; reading files ("chron files"); copies of memoranda and correspondence; copies of reports and related working papers; blank forms; transmittals and routing slips; and materials relating to fringe activities of an agency such as charitable fund drives.

How are Non-record Materials Destroyed? Non-record materials are destroyed in house on agency authority alone. However, if there is a question as to the status of certain kinds of material, please contact the Agency Records Officer for an opinion. What are Personal Papers? Some officials keep personal papers within their offices. These are documents of an unofficial, private nature that pertain to an individual's personal affairs and do not relate to official business. Such "papers might include files accumulated by an official before he assumed office or documents relating to one's private concerns, such as outside business activities or memberships in professional organizations or personal notes or diaries that are totally unrelated to public business.

Where are Personal papers Stored? It is important that such papers be kept apart from official records and that they be clearly labeled as private papers. Please take care to see that personal papers do not become intermingled and confused with official records.

What to do if there are Outstanding Actions?  In no event shall temporary records be destroyed which are known to pertain to unsettled accounts, claims, or demands involving the government of the District of Columbia. Records known to pertain to outstanding actions taken by the Department, unsettled accounts, incomplete investigations, pending litigation, or any matter involving a specific request made by the Inspector General, D.C. Auditor or the Corporation Counsel shall not be destroyed until satisfactory clearances have been obtained.

How to get Assistance? If you have any questions or need help in interpreting or applying schedule provisions, please contact the Office of Public Records at (202) 671-1105.