Records of Local Government

   Critically Endangered small

Records from local government (i.e., below the state level) which are required for transparency and may be in many diverse forms, but in which the local authority may lack the capacity to manage the complex digital preservation requirements that arise.

Digital Species: Public Records

Trend in 2022:

increased riskTowards even greater risk

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend in 2023:

No change No Change

Previously: Critically Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is a priority.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve | Inevitability

It would require a major effort to prevent or reduce losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.


Born digital records of small and medium-sized agencies; fasting-changing internal manuals, advice or policies shared electronically; records of care services; Documentation supporting long-lived contractual relations like Public Finance Initiatives; Organizational Slack channels; network drives; EDRMS; Email.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of preservation infrastructure; conflation of backup with preservation; loss of authenticity or integrity; Long-lived business processes; poor storage; churn of staff; significant volumes or diversity of data; poorly developed digitization; ill-informed records management; poorly developed migration or normalization; long standing protocols or procedures that apply unsuitable paper processes to digital materials; encryption; political instability; lack of sustained funding.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Well managed data infrastructure; preservation enabled at the point of creation; carefully managed authenticity; use of persistent identifiers; finding aids; well managed records management processes; recognition of preservation requirements; strategic investment in digital preservation; preservation roadmap; participation in digital preservation community.

2023 Review

This entry was added in 2019 as a subset of a previous entry for ‘Records of long duration from Local Government or Other Government Agencies.’ The split was intended to allow greater concentration on the challenges that these distinct types of agency face. Local government typically operates across a broad range of digital formats and services, but it is unclear and unlikely that relatively small archival agencies are properly funded locally to support the wide range of digital preservation requirements that arise. The 2020 Jury noted a trend towards greater risk based on significant political and economic upheaval placing additional strain on local government and its agencies, making already vulnerable records at greater risk. Trends towards greater risk was also noted by the 2021 Jury and 2022 Taskforce, contributing examples like Grenfell to demonstrate the precarity of local government records, especially when these risks overlap with records of non-governmental agencies, resulting in significance and impact of loss, the impetus for action and call to governing frameworks where failing in enforcement (and depending on the jurisdiction).

The 2023 Council generally agreed with the Critically Endangered classification with the overall risks remaining on the same basis as before (no change to the trend).

Additional Comments

The 2023 Council additionally recommended revisiting and rescoping this entry as part of the next major revision of the Bit List. Some Council members recommended splitting this entry into separate entries to differentiate the various risks associated with different types of digital public records, Others raised concerns regarding the breadth of records held by local government, and that it is perhaps not appropriate to have a distinct entry or split entries for records of local governments but rather provide examples of different kinds of public records in and across other entries

The diversity of 'local government records' makes this category quite difficult to score. First, local governments have differing responsibilities in different jurisdictions. For example local governments in the UK have more responsibilities than in Australia. Also, given the number of local government agencies in a state or country, the quality of recordkeeping and digital preservation practice can vary greatly. Additionally, the variety of records that are created by local governments means that some formats or record types may be generally at low risk, while others may be practically extinct. Given this complexity it is important to make clear that the imminence of action, significance of loss, and effort to preserve are context-dependent and generalized.

The main factors that reduce risk for these records are that local government is regulated, and there are clear recordkeeping standards that apply to digital records. Also they have consistent funding (although it may not be enough and may not be directed at digital preservation).

We feel that due to the breadth of records held by local governments, it is perhaps not appropriate for them to have a distinct record series, but rather be a featured example of other series. This approach would still assist in advocacy for local government as they would be able to cross reference their digital holdings against these classifications.

Significant research by the UK National Archives into Local Government Archives in England underlines the digital skills shortages that exist, especially with respect to preservation. There may be a benefit from splitting into a) legally required public record and b) additional information that may enrich our digital preservation of society. My assumption was that the roles and requirements for records management are clearly defined, but if this is not the case and there are inadequate resources to match the requirement, then the risk goes up.

Case Studies or Examples:

  • The Grenfell Tower fire and Grenfell Tower Inquiry illustrate the precarity of local government records, especially when third-party contractors are involved. Not only does it show the potential impact of aggravating conditions for Records of Local Government, but it also applies to those of Records of Non-Governmental Agencies. See Grenfell Tower Inquiry (n.d.) ‘Grenfell Tower Inquiry’. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023]

  • In Scotland, there is record keeping legislation that is relevant and governs some of this, such as the Public Records Scotland Act of 2011. See National Records of Scotland (n.d.), ‘Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011’. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023]

  • The work and outputs of the EDRMS Preservation Taskforce, such as the EDRMS Preservation Toolkit, may be helpful for guidance in this context. See Digital Preservation Coalition (2021) ‘EDRMS Preservation Toolkit’. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023]

  • The Kickstart Cymru project, which builds on the work that has been undertaken in Wales to preserve and provide access to digital information now and in the future. Underpinned by the Digital Preservation Policy for Wales, it is a multi-stranded initiative involving archivists, researchers, consultants, students and IT professionals to promote digital preservation in the local authority, education and cultural sectors. This included funding for programme partnership of six archive services to support local government collaboration to solve shared problems with one issue identified being the need to provide long term access and to preserve records on business systems with operational lifespans less than the need to preserve the records. It is responsive to specific sectoral needs, but with an overarching aim of enhancing digital preservation capacity. Elements of the initiative include building skills; addressing specific digital preservation issues, co-creation of documentation and providing kits to undertake practical preservation. See Archive Wales (2022), ‘Kickstart Cymru: Enhancing digital preservation capacity in Wales’, Digital Preservation Awards 2022. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023].

  • The issues and approaches raised by the Tuvalu Future Now Project, a set of three major initiatives designed to preserve its nationhood, governance and culture in the event of a worst-case scenario. The third initiative is the development of a digital nation. It includes digitising and transferring access to government and consular services and all accompanying administrative systems into the cloud to enable elections to continue to be held, and government bodies to continue in their roles. It also includes a virtual copy of Te Afualiku, the first island in Tuvalu to be digitally recreated through satellite imagery, photos and drone footage, creating a digital twin to not only help inform decisions around urban planning and development but also examine how to use augmented and virtual reality to allow displaced and future generations of Tuvaluans to continue to exist as both a culture and a nation, complete with ancestral knowledge and value systems. If this concept becomes a reality, the Tuvaluan people will be able to interact with one another in a digital dimension, in a way that imitates real life and helps to preserve shared language and customs. See Fainu, K. (2023) ‘Facing extinction, Tuvalu considers the digital clone of a country’, The Guardian. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023].

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