Records Managers

Guidance and Policy for Accessioning Records to the National Archives

Federal agencies are required to accession their permanent records into the National Archives. Accessioning is the process of transferring physical and legal custody of permanent records from federal agencies to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Authority and regulations for this requirement are found in 36 CFR 1235.

Additional guidance can be found in:

Please contact your Textual Accessioning POC or either or with any questions.

Accessioning Permanent Records into the National Archives

There are two primary types of accessions:

  • Direct Offers - Agency submits a transfer form to NARA to accession permanent records currently stored in agency space. The records are accessioned directly from the agency to NARA.
  • Federal Records Center (FRC) Accessions - NARA generates the transfer form for permanent records stored at a FRC that are targeted for accession that year. The Agency submits the transfer form and the records are accessioned during annual and quarterly moves from the FRC.

Transfer vs. Accession

The terms "transfer" and "accession" are often used interchangeably by both agency and NARA staff, however, there is a distinction.

  • Transfer refers to moving records into the physical custody of a NARA Federal Records Center. The transferring agency retains the legal custody of transferred records until final disposition.
  • Accession refers to when permanent records are sent the National Archives. NARA takes legal custody of the records, and in most cases takes physical custody of the records as well. Accessioned records become the property of NARA.

Preparing your records for accessioning

shrink wrapped boxes

Accessing your records after accessioning

  • If you or your agency staff would like to research your agency records that have been accessioned into NARA, please follow these instructions for research requests for unlcassified and classified records.

Using ERA to Accession Permanent Records

Learn how to accession permanent records to NARA via ERA.

The Electronic Records Archives (ERA) is NARA's system that allows federal agencies to perform critical records management transactions with NARA online. Agency records management staff will use ERA to draft new records retention schedules for records in any format, officially submit those schedules for approval by NARA, request the transfer of permanent records in any format to the National Archives for accessioning or pre-accessioning, and submit electronic records for storage in the ERA electronic records repository. To learn more about this process watch our ERA Youtube video:

NARA has developed several training resources available to federal agencies including:

For information about the FY 2013 Annual Move and ERA view the webinar slides and the Agency Annual Move Tips.

Updated: February 12, 2013

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