The Appraisal and Description Department deals with the analysis and disposition of government records.


The disposition of State, county and municipal records is determined by an appraisal of their value for future agency operations and historical studies.

Records Retention Schedules. Those records deemed to have permanent value are retained as archival documents. Their characteristics are described in records retention schedules. Other materials become disposable after a period of time

Disposal Certificates. Those records no longer needed are scheduled for disposal as certified through disposal certificates.

All records retention schedules and disposal certificates must be submitted for approval by the State Archivist. It is in the review of these schedules and certificates that the disposition of records is determined. Through this process, the important administrative, legal, fiscal and historical records of government are identified for permanent retention and eventual transfer to the State Archives. Other materials, when agencies no longer need them for current operations, can be destroyed.

State agencies producing the greatest number of revised and new retention schedules in 2001 included the Department of the Environment, Maryland Environment Service, and State Lottery Agency. Also showing substantial activity were the Department of Business and Economic Development, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Department of State Police. Several Anne Arundel County offices also prepared schedules, and the cities of Frederick and Taneytown developed ones to encompass most municipal operations.

Retention Schedules & Disposal Certificates Reviewed
FY2000 FY2001
443 181


An understanding of individual record series comes through an analysis of the purpose and content of the documents. That information plus notes on date span, arrangement, indexing, and relationship to other records comprises a series description.

Series Descriptions. The majority of series descriptions were developed for the project, specifically for Baltimore City and Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, Harford, Howard, Kent and Talbot counties. Over time, descriptions for series that recur throughout the counties were standardized and improved, resulting in substantial revisions to work done in 2000. State Highway Administration records from the Department of Transportation were analyzed and reports written in preparation for a proposal to digitize State road plats and related materials.

Series Descriptions Developed
FY2000 FY2001
206 368

Five-Year Survey of Government Records. In conjunction with the Records Management Division of the Department of General Services, the legally mandated five-year survey of government records was conducted. Inventory forms were placed online and could be completed and sent electronically. Based on the returns made by State agencies, the Records Management Division prepared a report on permanent records. The Archives used the information as a planning tool for the future acquisition of records.


The greatest challenge facing Appraisal and Description centers around the development and review of records retention schedules. Without records analysts in the Records Management Division of the Department of General Services, the State Archives has become the first line of review for schedules. Much time is spent in the preparation of review notes and recommended changes, return of schedules to the the agencies for changes, and analysis of the subsequent modifications. Many of the mistakes on initial schedules are minor, but important, such as failing to add the words "then destroy" to the retention for disposable materials or to include the phrase "transfer periodically to the State Archives" to the retention for permanent records.

There is a definite need for the resumption of a records management program in the State not only for the scheduling process, but also for management of paper and electronic files within agency offices. Two possible solutions come to mind. The Department of General Services could restructure its staffing to once again have a viable records management function. Or, the State Archives could assume the responsibilities, contingent upon the availability of sufficient funds. In the current fiscal atmosphere, neither event is likely to happen soon.

Maryland State Archives