Records Disposition Panel
How the Panel works
Minnesota Statute 15.17 specifies that, "All officers and agencies of the state, counties, cities, towns, school districts, municipal subdivisions or corporation, or other public authorities or political entities within the state...shall make and preserve all records necessary to a full and accurate knowledge of their official activities." The statute further delineates that the responsibility for any given agency's records lies with the chief administrative officer. Under M.S. 138.17 subd. 7 and M.S. 138.19, government entities must establish ongoing records management programs, keep record inventories, and create records retention schedules specifying retention periods and disposition by record type.
M.S. 138.17 establishes the Records Disposition Panel to direct the storage and disposition of the state's government records. The Panel, which was created in 1947, fulfills this directive through the review of proposed records retention schedules and one-time applications for the authority to dispose of records (commonly known as the PR-1 form). Schedules and applications are submitted to the Minnesota State Archives, which acts as Secretary to the Panel (M.S. 138.20).
The Panel is composed of the state Attorney General, the Legislative Auditor (in the case of state records), the State Auditor (in the case of local records), and the Director of the Minnesota Historical Society. In practice, members of the Panel have assigned designees to act in their stead. (M.S. 138.17). State Archives staff routes submitted materials to the Panel for review and handles all communication with submitters regarding the process. Panel members review schedules for legal, fiscal, and historical considerations, and can either approve as submitted or request changes and further review.
In its role as Secretary to the Panel, the State Archives maintains copies of approved and adopted retention schedules, as well as approved applications to dispose of records. These documents are publicly available; for more information about viewing these records, see the section on Accessing Records Retention Schedules.
The State Archives also provides general guidance to government entities on records management topics. The State Archives has several guidelines and standards published on its website. In particular, Preserving and Disposing of Government Records details the records management responsibilities of government entities, the process for creating/adopting/amending a records retention schedule, and other important aspects of records management.
- M.S. Chapter 13 (Government Data Practices)
- M.S. 15.17 (Official Records Act)
- M.S. 138.161 (State Archives; Establishment)
- M.S. 138.163 (Preservation and Disposal of Public Records)
- M.S. 138.17 (Government Records; Administration)
- M.S. 138.19 (Applications for Orders of the Panel)
Accessing records retention schedules
The most current versions of general records retention schedules for entities such as townships, cities, counties, school districts, Minnesota district courts, and volunteer firefighters relief associations are available on this page. Also included are general records retention schedules for state agencies for areas such as human resources, finance, and state property management.
Current (dated 2003-present) records disposition files (approved records retention schedules, notifications of adoption of general schedules, and approved applications for the authority to dispose of records) are available for viewing by appointment at the State Archives at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul during normal business hours:
- Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- To schedule an appointment, contact the State Archives directly at:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 651-259-3260
Records disposition files from 1947 to 2003 are available to the public in the Gale Family Library at the Minnesota History Center. More information about the library, including hours and contact information, is available on the Gale Family Library website. A digital finding aid is available to help researchers find the documents they would like to view.
Frequently Asked Questions
The State Archives offers many resources relating to records management on its website. A good resource to consult for general information is the publication Preserving and Disposing of Government Records. This guide contains information about all aspects of government records management in Minnesota.
General records retention schedules exist for several types of local government entities (including cities, counties, townships, school districts, Minnesota district courts, and volunteer firefighters relief associations), and they address retention for common records series. Government entities of all levels may adopt the general records retention schedule that applies to them, or they may create their own schedule and submit it for approval. Local government entities may adopt a general schedule by submitting a notification of adoption form, which can be found with the general schedule itself. The State Archives will sign and return a copy of the notification, keeping another copy on file. Once the signed notification is returned, entities may dispose of records according to the general records retention schedule. A government entity cannot dispose of records until it has adopted a general records retention schedule or has an approved records retention schedule on file; then it may dispose of records according to the schedule it is following (M.S. 138.225). Entities may also choose to retain records beyond the retention period or may contact the State Archives regarding possible transfer.
For state agencies, there are general records retention schedules concerning human resources, finance and state property management. Note that it is not necessary for a state agency to submit a notification of adoption form for these general schedules.
General records retention schedules have been reviewed and approved by the Records Disposition Panel, and are maintained online though the State Archives' Government Records Services webpage. The State Archives is not responsible for creating or updating any schedules.
Entities can submit a one-time application to dispose of records that are not on a records retention schedule, or for approval to dispose of records before their minimum required retention period has been reached. This form, known as the PR-1 form, is available on the State Archives' Government Records Services webpage. The State Archives retains approved PR-1 applications. To view these records, see the Accessing Records Retention Schedules section of this page.
General schedules are written to address the most common records, but some government entities may have unique record types or specific needs. These entities may choose to create their own records retention schedule in addition to or instead of a general schedule. Such schedules must be reviewed and approved by the Panel before they can be implemented. The State Archives has a blank form available on its Government Records Services webpage that can be used as a template.
After compiling a records retention schedule, government entities send three signed copies to the State Archives. The relevant forms for this process are on the State Archives' Government Records Services webpage.
The State Archives logs each proposed schedule or disposal application received and, acting as the Records Disposition Panel designee of the Director of the Minnesota Historical Society, reviews the proposed schedule for the historical value of records. The schedule is then sent to the other designee members of the Panel, who review it for legal and fiscal considerations.
After the retention schedule or disposal application has been reviewed by the Panel, it is returned to the State Archives. If the schedule is unanimously approved, the State Archives retains a copy for the Panel's permanent files and sends a copy of the schedule back to the originating entity. If the Panel does not approve the schedule and asks for changes, the schedule is returned to the submitter, who may then update the schedule and resubmit. Once the schedule has been approved by all Panel members, the entity may implement the records retention schedule.
MNHS reviews each submitted retention schedule or disposal application for the historical value of records, identifying those that have permanent, archival value and are eligible for transfer into the collections of the Minnesota State Archives. Per M.S. 138.17 subd. 1:
"[T]he term "state archives" means those records preserved or appropriate for preservation as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities of government or because of the value of the information contained in them, when determined to have sufficient historical or other value to warrant continued preservation by the state of Minnesota and accepted for inclusion in the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society."
In addition to collecting records that document the policies, major activities, and programs of government entities, the State Archives currently has the following collecting priorities:
- Facilitate family and local history research
- Improve documentation of under-documented and minority communities
- Protect the civil and property rights of Minnesotans
- Document how the state protects its natural resources and the environment
Please contact the State Archives to see if your entity has adopted a general records retention schedule or to check if there are other schedules on file for your entity. As the Secretary for the Records Disposition Panel, the State Archives maintains copies of all general records retention schedule adoption forms and approved retention schedules. For information on contacting the State Archives, see the section on Accessing Records Retention Schedules.
In general, questions about a specific retention schedule should be directed to that entity's records manager.
- Questions about the general records retention schedule for cities should be directed to the MCFOA (Minnesota Clerks and Finance Officers Association), which compiles and updates the general city schedule.
- Questions about the general records retention schedule for townships should be directed to the MAT (Minnesota Association of Townships), which issued the schedule.
- Questions about general schedules, the adoption of schedules, or the archival value of specific records can be directed to the State Archives.
- Questions regarding the legal value of records should be directed to your own legal counsel or the Attorney General's office.
- For questions concerning the fiscal value of state records, contact the Legislative Auditor. For the fiscal value of local records (such as cities, counties, school districts, and townships), contact the State Auditor.
The contact information for each Panel member designee can be found in the listing in the final section of this page.
The Data Practices Office of the Department of Administration provides assistance and advice on Minnesota's public access and privacy laws to the public and government. Their website contains past advisory opinions, videos, newsletters, upcoming workshops and events you can attend, and more.