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.

Group: Formats

Trend in 2021:

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2017

reduced riskTrend towards reduced risk

Previous classification: Endangered


Trend in 2022:


reduced riskMaterial improvement


Imminence of Action

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

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools or services within this group would have a global impact.

Effort to Preserve

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


Email in all its forms, including individual messages, threads of conversation, mailboxes, email servers and file attachments.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Conflicting and unmanaged IPR; use of personal accounts for professional work and vice versa; proliferation and duplication of attachments; email not recognized as a record; absent, unworkable or inconsistent records management; dependence on free cloud-based services; lack of migration path; lack of preservation planning; perverse incentives to delete; encryption.

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Application of appraisal and selection tools; timely transfer to preservation facility or archive; commitment to transparency; preservation policy; working preservation plan; clear migration path; widespread recognition of email as a record.

2021 Jury Review

This entry was added in 2017, but the Jury did not have capacity to assess it in detail at that time. It was reviewed and assessed in 2019, including highlights to significant developments including the recommendations of the Email Preservation Taskforce and the development of the ePADD software. Email presents many kinds of preservation challenge, from scale through core technologies, attachments, privacy and intellectual property rights. Because this entry intersects with many others, the aggravating conditions associated with email should be considered in conjunction where relevant. The 2021 Jury discussed the continued developments in email preservation tools and techniques as well as the growing number of archives preserving email content. At the same time, the issues with providing access to preserved email content has arisen; ongoing records management policies towards corporate or business email needs to be better embedded to stop the loss of important email content and more awareness is needed around the potential of personal email.

While Recordkeeping legislation and mandates direct retention periods, Email along with text messages document decisions taken by government officials at local, regional and national level are not always well maintained, if at all; their loss could impact on people's lives along with their ability to assert rights. 

For these reasons there is a 2021 trend towards reduced risk but the endangered classification remains.

2022 Trend

The 2022 Taskforce agreed on a trend towards reduced risk based on maerial improvement over the last year with applied examples of good practice, including (but not limited to) approaches to creating a PDF format for the preservation of email, and improvements to existing software, tools and workflows supporting complex email preservation.

Additional Comments

Email is hugely important as it has been so pervasive as a communication mechanism for society. Some methods used and responsibility adopted for collecting at the business and public body level (again will differ globally), but this will be a fraction of the communities that use it, and few will be set up for the long-term care of this data.

Case Studies or Examples:

  • Resources and recent outputs from the EA-PDF project to identify the essential characteristics and optimal functional requirements of email messages and necessary related information in a PDF technology-based archive. More at: https://www.pdfa.org/resource/ea-pdf/ .

  • Resources and recent outputs from the Integrating Preservation Functionality into ePADD (ePADD+) project to integrate long-term email preservation functionality into the program and provide a tool supporting the email archiving lifecycle more robustly. More at: https://library.stanford.edu/projects/epadd/about/eabcc-phase-4.

  • Resources and recent outputs from the RATOM project to develop software to assist archives and other collecting organizations with email analysis, selection, and appraisal tasks. More at: https://ratom.web.unc.edu/about/

See also:

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