Records Retention Guidelines (Effective June 22, 2005)


The following records retention guidelines provide recommendations for the disposition of public affairs, news and communications records. Those records document the activities and events of Duke University and its schools, departments, programs and centers. They also serve to highlight the accomplishments of faculty, students and staff locally and around the world.

These guidelines apply to public affairs, news and communications records and data stored on any and all media. These guidelines do not obligate an office to create records that did not previously exist.

Fiscal Records

Some information used in the management and oversight of public affairs activities is financial in nature. An office should follow procedures laid out in Financial Services' General Accounting Procedure 200.240, Retention Periods for Accounting Records when disponsing of fiscal records.

Electronic Records

Public affairs, news and communications offices rely almost exclusively on electronic or “born digital” records created with word processing, spreadsheet, electronic mail, website authoring or database programs to carry out their business and activities. While the all-encompassing term “records” includes any recorded information stored on any medium, the guidelines attempt to recognize that a series may contain paper and electronic records. As electronic records are created, managed and stored throughout their life cycle of usefulness, these guidelines should serve as a general strategy for identifying basic retention needs for different sets of information.

Using the Retention Guidelines

The retention guidelines identify minimum retention periods for public affairs, news and communications records. Records not identified in these guidelines should not be disposed of without first consulting the University Records Manager, the University Archivist or the Medical Center Archivist. Records that are involved in an investigation, legal action or proceeding, audit or program review — whether forthcoming or in progress — should be retained until the resolution of those actions.

Following the minimum retention period, the records in question should be disposed of according to the recommendations in these guidelines. In some cases it is important to destroy information (excluding records identified for permanent retention) using a method that preserves its confidentiality. 

The University Records Manager will review the retention guidelines for public affairs, news and communications records periodically and will issue revisions as necessary.

Off-site Storage

In most cases, offices responsible for maintaining records (if they are in traditional hardcopy formats) do not have adequate space to store them beyond one or two years. If records must be moved to an off-site storage location, consider the following needs:

  • access and retrieval — including frequency of retrieval, emergency access needs and potential costs associated with getting to the records
  • environmental conditions that provide stable and friendly conditions for the records
  • security systems that prevent unauthorized access to the records
  • filing systems that permit the rapid retrieval of records via a logical index, box list or similar finding aid
  • overall physical and intellectual control over the records for which you are the guardian

Abbreviations and Definitions

Administrative Value: the usefulness of a record in the conduct of the office’s business

Archives: The University Archives or the Medical Center Archives

Minimum Retention: the minimum amount of time a particular series of records should be retained prior to disposition

Permanent: an indefinite retention period; signifies that the records have sufficient value or importance to justify keeping them in perpetuity. Permanent 
retention also may be based on legal requirements or demonstrated and justifiable need. Long-term or permanent retention of electronic records requires resources for data migration, ensuring the integrity and trustworthiness of the data and addressing hardware/software obsolescence. An office should consider the long-term availability of its resources prior to expressing an interest in retaining information permanently. The University Archives or the Medical Center Archives is the official repository for information with historical or enduring value.

Records: all recorded information, regardless of its physical form or characteristics, created or received pursuant to the transaction of university business or in the fulfillment of its educational, administrative, business or legal obligations

Record Series (or Series):  a group/set of identical or related records, information or data that are normally used and filed or stored as a logical unit; synonymous with data set

Duke University Records Retention Guidelines

Category Description: Public Affairs, News, and Communications

Primary Heading: Public Affairs, News, and Communications

These are records created to document and communicate to the external community the activities and events of the university and its schools, departments, programs and centers. 

Series Title


Minimum Retention


Advertisements advertisements of special events or services Contact Archives  
Articles & clippings news articles or clippings (e.g. Duke In the News, News @ A&S, etc.) Contact Archives May be online documents
Biographical files vitae, photographs, profiles or articles about the individual, etc. Contact Archives Some may be online as "profiles" or "faculty news"
Bulletins, newsletters & publications   Contact Archives May be online documents
Experts lists   Superseded or obsolete May be online documents
Interviews interviews with or about members of the Duke community, including "one-question interviews" Contact Archives  
News releases news releases about Duke's people, programs or initiatives. May also include tip sheets, media advisories, op-ed articles, etc. Contact Archives May be online documents
Photographs photographs of events, people or activities Contact Archives Photographs should identify the person(s) or event. May be online as "image banks" or "image gallery"
Requests for information   Request satisfied and administrative value ends  

speeches or statements delivered by members of the Duke community

Contact Archives Includes remarks delivered by guest speakers, if available.