Contractual Documents and Related Records

   Endangered large

Documents, correspondence and other records created in the course of contractual dealings between individuals and agencies, especially where the subjects are of long duration and may be subject to legal scrutiny at undefined points in the distant future.

Digital Species: Legal Data

Trend in 2022:

No change No Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend in 2023:

No change No Change

Previously: Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within one year.

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 small effort to preserve materials in this group, requiring the application of proven tools and techniques.


Contracts, receipts, correspondence, licence agreements, building consent, warranties, and any other document or record that represents a legally binding transaction or permission. Such records may be useful in the avoidance or resolution of disputes, whether in court or prior to proceedings. Includes Online Terms and Conditions for e-commerce or end-user agreements for services.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Loss of context; loss of authenticity or integrity; external dependencies; poor storage; lack of understanding; churn of staff; poorly framed or over-zealous disposal; ill-informed records management; misplaced fears with respect to data protection, encryption.

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Managed appraisal; well managed data governance and infrastructure; preservation and appropriate retention strategies enabled at the point of creation; carefully managed authenticity; use of persistent identifiers; finding aids; well managed records management processes; application of records management standards.

2023 Review

This entry was added in 2019 as a subset of an entry introduced in 2017 for ‘Digital Legal Records and Evidence,’ which was split into four more discrete entries. There is overlap with Pension Mortgage and Insurance Records entry, but this entry addresses digital records with value over the long term that may not be immediately obvious at the point of creation.

The likelihood of liquidation, mergers or acquisitions means that these records are trending towards greater risk. There was a 2020 trend towards greater risk in light of the Covid Pandemic causing profound dislocation across the economy, placing many companies and agencies at financial risk. There was no identified trend for 2021 or 2022. While there are some noticeable improvements in record-keeping legislation and regulations and guidance to this area, with a growing number of agencies handling and advising on what needs to be kept and for how long, both the 2021 Jury and 2022 Taskforce agreed there remained room for improving how legal agreements are managed through records management standards and processes.

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

Additional Comments

Closer collaboration over the digital record lifecycle with recordkeeping organizations such as IRMS/ARA and digital preservation organizations would help to ensure best practice from (before) record creation to its long-term preservation and would help to identify any risks and bridge gaps ‘from the cradle to the grave’. Joining forces and resources will enable the community to raise awareness of the impact of best practices on the organizational governance and related efficiencies. 

Managed appraisal of these documents and records would also aid in lowering the risk of this entry.

See also:

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