Frequently asked Questions in Archiving

1. What are the duties and role of the archivist?

The archivist plans and implements procedures to classify, index, conserve documents providing accessibility to decision makers, researchers, historians and to the public.

2. What is an archive?

An archive is a group of documents of any date, form or material produced or received by government and private bodies, retained by the producer or tenant. Archives are preserved because they include information beneficial to decision makers and help in historical and scientific studies in all fields as well as lend support to institutions and to the sustaining of individual rights.

3. What are the archive types and containers?

Archives consist of all types of documents procedure by government authorities, in all kind of containers: Hard copy (paper) (such as maps, plans, manuscripts), visual and audio (voice recordings on tapes, photos, films), electronic (preserved on computers, floppy disk, CD)

4.What is a document?

A document may be written, printed media, or in the form of photography, drawings, plans or voice records, on either paper, magnetic tapes, electronic devices or other media, and it  includes public, historical or private.

5.What is a public document?

Federal law no. 7 of 2008 concerning the National archives defines a public document as: “Any document concerning the activities of governmental bodies, whether legislative, legal, administrative or other”. Any documents received within the government entity that is stored and related to the government work purposes or needed to maintain their workflow is considered a public document.

6.What are the archival phases of a public document?

Under the same law, a public document passes through three phases following its creation. First, the document is considered current in the producing office of the government authority which constantly uses it. Second, the document is considered to be intermediate when at the end of its recovered by the government authority employees exceptionally when at the end of its constant use, to be recovered only when needed for the  governmental authority’s activities. The law obliges the document at this stage to be transferred to the central archive of the authority for preservation under appropriate conditions. Finally, the document becomes permanent when it is no longer used by the government authority, but remains beneficial for scientific and historical research. It must be transferred then to the National archives.

7.What are documents of historical value?

Historical valuable documents are as follow:

  • Strategies and policies of government authorities linked to their core activities such as: executive plans, relations and agreements documents, documents containing the signatures of Rulers and Sheikhs, etc.
  • The institution founding and organizing documents such as organization chart, job descriptions, legislations issued by the institution.
  • Resolutions and studies made by government authorities concerning the authorities themselves and their stakeholders.
  • Work patterns of government authorities, for example: procedures, systems, directives, reports of committees and meetings, etc… as well as results of workflow, such as: achievement reports, periodic reports, scientific, technical and statistical reports, etc.
  • Reports relating to human resources and finance management in governmental entities, such as budgets, recruitment plans, training, project management.
  • Research, scientific, artistic, technical and technological activities, such as: studies, trials and experiments, certified scientific analyses, establishments of projects and plans, drawings, statistics, along with photos, plans and reports concerning historical sites and buildings.
  • Documents of any kind produced before the establishment of the union of the emirates, both within and outside the UAE.
  • Government bodies are obliged to transfer such historical documents to the national archives.

8.What is meant by transferring a document?

The transfer of a document, first to the central archive in the authority and later to the National Archives, is one of the most important procedures of record management. Since transfer is a legal, technical and administrative procedure, official forms and technical operations must be employed in determining the lists of documents to be transferred and audited.

9.What are the procedures of transferring documents?

Article 6 of Federal law no. 7 of 2008 concerning the National archives states the following:

“All government bodies are committed to send their documents to the National archives after five years of the date of closure of any file. These bodies may retain some documents for additional periods if they are needed for the flow of its activities on the condition that the additional period does not exceed five more years, pursuant to the rules set forth in the executive regulations of this law”

The transfer procedure is based on the approved record retention schedule of the governmental authority and the National Archives, which require that expired current and intermediate documents must be transferred first to a documentation unit (central archive of the authority) then the National Archives. As part of this process, a document transfer form is issued as evidence of the preservation responsibility and to serve as a recovery search tool. 

10.What is meant by a retention schedule?

A retention schedule is the main tool and reference in controlling archiving and the phases of disposal operation in government authorities and the National Archives. This plan shall be designed and determined according to law. Legislation and user work needs and apply to all forms and types of documents, including electronic archives.

11.Can the retention period of a document be changed in the approved retention schedule?

Exceptionally, the retention period may be changed when required after approval of the National Archives.

Government authorities must review the retention schedule contents every five years and suggest improvement as needed. The National Archives is responsible for the approval and certification of the improvements.

12.What is meant by document destruction?

Document destruction is a legal and technical procedure applied by government bodies and the National Archives to dispose of documents, which no longer have value. It is not permitted for any government body under any circumstances to dispose of any document, group of official documents or archive without a written approval from the National Archives, Destruction takes place under the supervision of the archive destruction committee according to certified procedures of the National Archives. Clause (2) of article (5) of the federal law no. 7 of 2008 concerning the National Archives states: “No historical or national document may be destroyed; however other documents may be subject to destruction, as stipulated by this law and according to the rules and procedures set by the board” 

13.What is the document destruction procedure?

This procedure is based on the approved retention schedule of the governmental authority and the National Archives, which determines expired current and intermediate documents that must be destroyed by documentation unit (central archive of the entity) or in the National Archives. A documents destruction request form must be filled. The actual destruction operation takes place in the presence of members of the documents destruction committee under signature of the minutes of destroyed documents report, according to the rules of the laws of the National Archives.

14.Does the law oblige preserving documents?

Article (9) of the federal law no. 7 of 2008 concerning the National Archives states the following: “Government bodies, in coordination with the National Archives, must provide required protection and safe conditions for preservation of documents, according to the rules and procedures determined by the board in compliance with the nature of work in each government body”. 

15.What are the risks faced by archives?

  • Defects in construction and fittings                                 
  • Water leakage and floods                                        
  • Fire                                                              
  • Rodents and insects                                            
  • Theft, destruction and human mistakes                                 

16.What are the measures to be taken to avoid these risks?

International standards recommend taking several precautions to ensure security and safety in the archive building and storage facilities:

  • Choosing the appropriate location far from floods, fire and sources of gas explosion or areas polluted by chemical emissions.
  • Securing access and exit points (secured doors and guards)
  • Choosing and installing appropriate fittings such as: metal shelves, early fire detection system, fire INERGEN, FM 200 and NAF extinguishing system.
  • Choosing and installing the correct air conditioning system to ensure the appropriate climate conditions ( temperature, level of humidity)
  • A rodent and insects fighting program, periodic cleaning of the storage areas.

17.What are the principles used to prepare a disaster plan?

  • Implement an employee-training program on how to react to disasters and the procedures to be followed in emergencies.
  • Set directives and guidelines on how to deal with disaster.
  • Make a list of whom to communicate with in case of disaster.
  • Determine priority locations from buildings and construction plans and identify technical equipment to be saved
  • Identify the equipment and human resources (list of experts, intervention teams) to deploy in emergencies cases.
  • Set a priority recovery plan for the damaged archives.

18.What are document preservation specifications?

Protection of archived documents from damage is enhanced by providing appropriate security and safety conditions and taking specific measures according to international specifications in the following manner:

  • The archive room must be separate from work areas and offices, without public access (for security reasons)
  • The room should not be located on an underground floor of the building
  • The area of each room should not exceed 200 m2 and 2.50 m in height, and floors shall be free from dust
  • The floor load capacity of the building shall be not less than 1100 kg for fixed shelves and 1700 kg for mobile shelves.
  • The wall and doors shall be fireproof and well closed to avoid rodent and insects infestation.
  • Windows shall be of small size to avoid infiltration of concentrated sunrays.
  • Lights in the room shall be of the cold illumination type and not exceeding 150 lux.

19.What are the preservation specifications of data meduims (document)?

The standards specification of ISO 11799 states that, in order to maintain appropriate temperatures and humidity levels, sudden changes which may cause damage to the archive facility are to be avoided. The following table shows the temperatures and humidity levels per container:


  • If these levels are not maintained, paper shall dry and crack, resulting in great damage to the archive
  • Any dust propagating into the preservation room could promote the emergence of cracks and insect growth and ultimately completely damaged the documents

20.What is an electronic archive?

Electronic archiving is a system based on various means, techniques and programs, which convert documents to a digital format in order to facilitate their management, storage, search and recovery.

21.Are email considered archive documents?

Like normal correspondence, electronic mail is considered to be archive material, particularly messages produced, sent or received within the official electronic mail system employed by government authorities, In order to support business activities and document the decision, based on this principle, emails are subject to the same rule applied to ordinary paper correspondence. 

22.What are the main components of an electronic archiving program?

The electronic archiving systems contain the following features:

  • Managing all types of documents and registers (paper, sound, visual, photos etc)
  • Controlling access to documents and data by different users with different authorization levels and responsibilities and auditing on its use.
  • Importing data and electronic documents from other archiving electronic systems or related working systems
  • Integrating into document capturing and related ERP systems for example, human resources or finances, etc.
  • Incorporating classification systems, closing or freezing files. Managing file plans, retention rules.
  • Storing documents safely, creating backup copies.
  • Facilitating search and retrieval.

23.What are the procedure for long-term preservation of electronic documents?

  • Determine the form of document to be preserved for the long term (PDF/a format).
  • Choose an electronic medium of the type WORM (write once, read many), which is appropriate for long term preservation
  • Multiply storage mediums.
  • Determine the preservation location and storage conditions
  • Ensure appropriate climate conditions (temperature, humidity and pollution effects)
  • Choose arrangement and computer recovery classification according to the type of medium
  • Safeguard the infrastructure of the system, net and main distributor.
  • Provide maximum protection of equipment and data (information security policies)
  • Upgrade and transfer to other containers and systems.

24.Are there any international archive management standards?

There are several standard specifications in the field of archiving and electronic archiving

  • ISO 15489-1:2001 Information and Documentation - Records Management, Part 1: General
  • ISO 15489-2:2001 Information and Documentation - Records Management, Part 2: Guidelines
  • ICA - ISAD (G) - 2000 - General International Standard Archival Description
  • ICA - ISAAR (CBF) – 2003- International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families
  • ICA - ISDIAH-2008 - International Standard for Describing Institutions with Archival Holdings, First edition
  • ISO 11799 Document storage requirements for archive and library materials
  • ISO 19005-1:2005 Document management -- Electronic document file format for long-term preservation -- Part 1: Use of PDF 1.4 (PDF/A-1)
  • ISO/IEC 27001 Information technology — Security techniques — Information security management systems — Requirements
  • ISO/IEC 27002 Information technology - Security techniques - Code of practice for information security ISO/IEC 17799 Information technology: Code of practice for information security management
  • ISO/CD TR 18492 Electronic imaging – Ensuring long-term access to digital information and images
  • ISO/CD TR 12652 Technical report on planning considerations addressing preparation of documents for image capture systems
  • ISO/WD 18509-1 Electronic archival storage – Specifications relative to the design and operation of information
  • processing systems in view of ensuring the storage and integrity on recordings stored in these systems – Part 1: Long term access strategy Part 2: Technical specifications
  • ANSI/AIIM MS44-1988 (R1993), Recommended Practice for Quality Control of Image Scanners

25.Archiving – related websites

26.Contact The National Archives.

The National Archives
P.O Box 5884, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Telephone: +971 2 418 3333
Fax: +971 2 444 5811
Business Hours: Sunday – Thursday
8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.