Lost, very lost or just damaged?

Queensland is a pretty awesome place, but we know the weather can be pretty stormy and sometimes accidents happen. Despite our best efforts and planning, records get damaged and sometimes lost.

If it is identified that a record is beyond all hope of salvage, you need to get approval to destroy the record.

First off, have a look at our advice on the website about the application process. However, these things are always helped by seeing an example.

Example 1: Damaged records

Katie works for Lamingtown Shire council as the Manager, Records and Information Management and their local government building is close to a major river. Last year, the river flooded and inundated the building with water and mud and other things Katie didn’t want to know about.

When they were allowed back into the building, Katie found that several records were very wet. She contacted QSA’s Preservation team to discuss possible salvage options. After a lengthy phone call and emails back and forth with various details and evidence of the damage, a decision was made. Unfortunately, there was nothing that could be done as the records were contaminated with things that are better left unmentioned and definitely untouched.

After discussing requirements regarding damaged records with the relevant business manager, Katie gathered all the evidence she’d need for the application:

  • Photos – check (already done for the salvage assessment by the Preservation team)
  • Details of the damage and incident – check (she had this from the salvage assessment too)
  • Details about the records (e.g. their purpose, what information they contained etc.) – all of the records were registered in the council content management system, so she checked there to find out this information.
  • If the records could be recreated – well, the records couldn’t be salvaged but maybe the information they contained was somewhere else, so she went to find out.

Katie checked the council content management system to see if there was anything there to indicate the information was in another record. She also checked in with the relevant business manager too to see if they knew. She discovered that there was a couple of copies floating around, a few others had been digitised, and some data had been transcribed into a spreadsheet. It wasn’t all of the damaged records, but it at least some of them could be recreated.

Armed with all the information and evidence she needed, she filled out an Application to dispose of damaged public records (DOC, 323 KB) and then organised for the council CEO to sign the form and sent it to QSA.

The State Archivist reviewed the request, looking at all of the detailed evidence Katie had supplied to support her application. After a few emails back and forth to clarify a couple of details, the State Archivist approved the disposal of the damaged records.

Once Katie had received the authorisation, she contacted a specialist destruction company to dispose of the contaminated records, and recorded the destruction in her disposal log (DOC, 355 KB).

Example 2: Lost records

So, what do you do if a record is lost? Here’s an example of some lost records.

When Katie was assessing the damage to her building after the flood (see example above), she also noticed that some physical records were not where they were before the flood and were nowhere to be found. She also noticed that one of the portable hard drives that had some legacy records on it had been crushed by a falling tree (why it was near a tree in the first place we don’t know) and all of the records on it were inaccessible.

When she could, she looked up the details of the records in their content management system and checked if they had any back-ups or copies of any of the records. Unfortunately, they didn’t so the records were very much lost. She used those details to complete a notification of lost public records form. She then organised for her Chief Executive to sign this form as well and sent it to QSA.

A week later, an archivist from Queensland State Archives contacted her to get a few extra details about the records (apparently the tree came through the roof and onto a desk, which was where the hard drive was) and how her local government was going to prevent this from happening again.

After further consideration, they agreed with Katie that the records were very lost indeed and were assured that Katie’s agency had put processes in place to reduce the risk of it happening again.

To document the loss of the records, Katie added them to the disposal log, noting that they were lost, and made sure she kept the notification and the acknowledgement she received from the State Archivist in response.

More information

You can find more information about lost and damaged records, assessing damaged records, salvaging records, and documenting the disposal (or loss) of records on the website.

Remember, you can contact us via email, telephone, blog, Twitter.

Also, just like in the movies, all names, characters, places, and incidents portrayed in this blog post are fictitious and are not based on real people or incidents in any way (as far as we know)… just in case you were wondering if a tree really did destroy a hard drive.

And if you’re interested in the story of Lamingtown so far, you can check out the other blogs.

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