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  • 1.  Retention Schedules

    Posted 11-14-2023 10:43 AM

    Hi all, 

    I was wondering if anyone has dealt with file retention in their museum. I'm specifically wondering about the retention period for files created for exhibits, reference requests, emails and/or written correspondence - both collection and non-collection related, etc. How do you determine the period of retention - permanent or a set number of years? If they are digital files how are you storing them/specific platform/specific format, etc.? We are a state agency and so we are looking to our state archivist as well as the state retention schedule, but I'm also interested in other institutions and their process for determining retention. 

    Thank you in advance for the help!

    Kendra Newhall
    Senior Registrar
    Montana Historical Society

  • 2.  RE: Retention Schedules

    Posted 11-15-2023 10:21 AM

    Hi Kendra,

    I too work in a state agency.  Someone in your agency should be your "records management liason officer" that works with the agency in charge of records retention (state archivist or library in our case).

    For Connecticut, the State Library has a State Records Management Program ( that guides us for what to do.  This includes accession files, collections, exhibits, etc.

    Hope this helps give you a starting point.


    Jodi Polsgrove
    Museum Curator I / Curator of Collections
    State Of Connecticut
    Hartford CT

  • 3.  RE: Retention Schedules

    Posted 11-16-2023 01:24 PM

    Hi Kendall,

    I was recently brought into the Museum of Flight WA and we are starting to look more closely at our own file retention policies. We currently do not have an organization archivist (someone who's focus is on retaining Museum of Flight documents) but we have a really good collections archivist and team. I work in Development and we are currently trying to figure out the best practice for retention for donor acknowledgement letters and correspondences. We are currently following the IRS 7 year policy, so we recently removed any files where donors who are lapsed members who have not donated or communicated with us since 2014 or earlier.

    We have also been stumbling across documents that collections and archives wants such as funding plans for museum wings/buildings, exhibits, events. I am unsure how long they are keeping those documents.

    Our archivist sent me a File retention calendar she was able to put together with templates from the internet, some examples to follow.:

    • Annual Fund Files retain 5 years
    • Capital Campaigns keep
    • Grant file, only awarded grants, last 3 years of paperwork for 5 years
    • Mailed in donations and their notes/remit slips are saved digitally forever on our server.

    But we are still figuring this out. I am excited to see what other organizations are doing.

    Freyja Lye-Kordich
    Development Associate
    The Museum of Flight
    Seattle WA

  • 4.  RE: Retention Schedules

    Posted 11-17-2023 10:40 AM


    The Society of American Archivists' Museum Archives Section has a list of museum records retention schedules: I've found these useful for starting to update our retention policies and schedules here at DMNS. Hopefully it's of use to you too!

    Laura Uglean Jackson
    Digital Archivist
    Denver Museum of Nature & Science

  • 5.  RE: Retention Schedules

    Posted 11-17-2023 03:25 PM

    Thank you for the source. It's much appreciated!

    Kendra Newhall
    Montana Historical Society

  • 6.  RE: Retention Schedules

    Posted 11-17-2023 01:19 PM

    We are currently reviewing and evaluating all record retention policies as Freyja indicated earlier.  While our current document is old and very much in the mindset of the IRS, we are reviewing all and modernizing.  What is particularly challenging for us, as in many institutions, is the management and governing policies on the digital footprint.

    Curious to understand how other cultural organizations are handling that aspect as well.

    Christopher Smith MBA
    Director, Technology & Cyber
    The Museum of Flight
    Seattle WA