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Management Guide (Preservation of Records)

The Need To Preserve Records

  1. Government records which have historical value should be preserved as part of the country's heritage. These records are very important as evidence and reference materials that can be used by the government, researchers and future generations.

  2. Records, which are easily damaged, will be a loss to the nation if they are not well preserved.

The Enemies of Records

The enemies of records can be divided into 4 factors: physical, biological, chemical and the human factor, which act as agents of destruction.

1. Physical Factors

  • Storage Space
    Unsuitable storage space is one of the causes leading to damage of records; for example, wooden buildings which are prone to fire, water, pests, etc and lacking in good ventilation and have haphazard storage.
  • Light, Temperature and Humidity
    Records which are commonly exposed to light are easily damaged, torn and discoloured, while too high a temperature will cause them to crease and disintegrate. High relative humidity will encourage the growth of fungus and mildew on the records.
  • Dust
    Dust collecting in storage space where relative humidity is high will be conducive for the growth of fungus and mildew which contain bacteria harmful to man. Fine and noxious particles in dust will damage paper and other records especially microfilms and magnetic tapes.
  • Natural Disasters
    Flood, war, fire, earthquake and other natural disasters are also agents of destruction.

2. Biological Factors

Comprise insects/rodents/pests such as rats, termites, cockroaches and silverfish which will attack records stored in places which are cluttered, damp, cramped and dirty. Fungus and mildew are also damaging to records.

3. Chemical Factors

Records contain chemicals, e.g. paper contains acid.

So does ink. Chemicals are found in other types of records too. If these records are not properly kept, the chemicals they contain will react with the surroundings and cause damage. Air pollution, especially that caused by fumes from factories and vehicles, will impair the records in the long run.

4. Human Factors

Man is the main culprit and much of the damage to records stems from their carelessness through rough handling, poor storage and lack of preservation.

Ways to Safeguard Records

The storage space must be a safe and suitable building with the following features:

  1. Located above the flood level without any pipes running across the storage area so as to avoid the effects of leaking and flooding.

  2. Built from construction materials which are strong, of good quality, not easily inflammable and impervious to water.

  3. Equipped with fire safety equipment such as smoke and heat detector, automatic sprinklers, fire alarm and fire escape.

  4. Safe electrical wiring system.

  5. Storage area for records must be well-ventilated with a constant temperature between 15 Degree Celcius and 18 Degree Celcius, and relative humidity of 55-65%. If the room has no air-conditioning, fans can be used to circulate the air.

  6. Record storage area must be cleaned at least twice a week using a vacuum.

  7. Records must be kept on shelves and neatly arranged according to their types to facilitate ventilation and retrieval.

  8. Records which are wet must be dried using the fan. They should not be dried in the sun. Records which contain fungus and mildew must be cleaned.

  9. Torn records cannot be patched up haphazardly. A suitable glue or gum must be used. Any enclosure that has come off must be reinserted into the file immediately.

Based on the National Archives Act 2003, General Circular No 1/1997 regarding the preservation of government records and Service Circular Chapter 5, government departments must abide by these procedures to ensure that the records are well preserved.

Record Management

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