Archival management, as a field onto itself, originated in the 1930s with the establishment of the National Archives and the Society for American Archivists, as well as the Historical Records Survey (HRS) of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The subsequent involvement of records management as a specialized business-oriented enterprise occurred in the 1950s. The expanse of governmental activity and its subsequent records spurred a need to reduce the quantity of records while retaining the quality of records of enduring value.
Records scheduling identifies and describes records, usually at the series level, and provides information on their retention periods, which differ depending on their nature and origination. Records scheduling provides mandatory instructions for disposition, which may include the transfer of permanent records to an archives or the destruction of temporary records. Archives acquire records after their initial purpose—Schellenberg’s “primary values”—is complete. Records are retained because of their continuing informational, evidential, and intrinsic values.
Both archivists and records managers share the primary tasks of the efficient, systematic arrangement, description, and preservation of documents for future retrieval and reference. The professions of archives and records management meet at records scheduling, because consistent standards for transfer of records from an organization to an archives create better, representative collections. Archivists have discovered that traditional or analog-based records scheduling and accessioning methods have not proved effective with born digital records. A current challenge in archives and records management is the development of new skills to facilitate the transfer of electronic files and to assess file format longevity and authenticity.