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Administration of Wisconsin State Government Records

The State Archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society plays an important role in the disposition and preservation of non-current state records. The Society works closely with the Public Records Board and Department of Administration to provide record services to state agencies.

Wisconsin statutes provide for the orderly disposition of all public records through the approval of Records Disposal Authorizations (RDA) by the Public Records Board. Information on the preparation of RDAs can be obtained from the Records Management Section of the Department of Administration at 608-266-2996. You may wish to download a Retention Disposition Authorization Form. Use the form to submit a retention schedule to the Public Records Board for approval. Visit the Public Records Board website to view more information on records retention schedules and guidelines.

Many state agencies store their non-current records at the State Records Center prior to their legal destruction or transfer to the State Archives. Information on Records Center services can be obtained at 608-266-2995. All agencies wanting to submit new inventory will need to use the State Records Center web access module.

Records determined to have permanent value can be transferred to the Wisconsin Historical Society, an independent state agency with statutory responsibility to collect, maintain, and make available for use the permanently valuable records of the state. The home for these records is the Library and Archives division at the Society's headquarters building located on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

How to Transfer Records to the Society's State Archives

Records stored at the State Record Center are automatically transferred at the end of their retention period, two times a year, to the Society. Transfer occurs with agency approval, after the record officer and/or records coordinators review and approve of the Record Center's generated Notice of Destruction/Transfer report.

Records with a Retention/Disposition Authorization (RDA) which indicates transfer to the Wisconsin Historical Society's State Archives may be sent directly to the Society from the creating agency at the end of their retention period.

To transfer records directly from the creating agency to the Society:

  1. Verify the records to be transferred are not subject to a legal or audit hold within the agency
  2. Pack the records, in their original file folders, into Record Center cartons
  3. Ensure that each carton contains records from one RDA only
  4. Ensure that all records within a carton have reached the disposition date
  5. Mark each carton with agency name, series title, and RDA number
  6. Complete the State Archives transfer form and include a copy of the form in each box of records
  7. Notify Abbie Norderhaug at 608-261-1037 prior to sending records
  8. Send records through Inter-D mail. Large quantities of boxes may require special arrangements with DOA's Inter-D mail unit.

Note: Some RDAs specify transfer to other archival repositories; this process does not apply to these records.

Confidential Records

The State Archives has statutory authority and the ability to administer confidential state government records under Wis. Stat. 16.61(13)(d). Provisions in the 1991 Biennial Budget Act (1991 Wisconsin Act 39) recently altered the status of confidential state government records at the State Archives. Formerly, state records that were confidential while in the possession of the creator remained confidential after transfer to the State Archives. With the concurrence of the creating agency, the State Archives can establish policies that permit legitimate research while protecting the privacy of individuals in those records.

By the provisions of Wis. Stat. 16.61(13)(d), for the first seventy-five years following creation of a confidential state government record that record will remain confidential after transfer to the State Archives. However, Wis. Stat. 16.61(13)(d)(2) allows for the confidential record to be presumed open to public inspection seventy-five years after creation unless the Society's Board of Curators determines that the record should remain confidential pursuant to the Open Records Law.

Creating Agency Access

The State Archives makes every effort to facilitate access for an agency that has turned over its records. State Archives staff cannot undertake extensive research for an agency, but will provide easy access to the records so the staff of the agency can perform the necessary research. Private researchers, including genealogists, who want information from records held by the State Archives should be told to contact the State Archives directly.

Public Access

All state government records from the State Archives holdings, except confidential records, are open to the public. In addition to providing access to researchers who visit the State Archives, information or copies of records will be sent to those who call or write. The State Archives cannot, however, do extensive research for any patron. Mail and phone requests that require the attention of the professional archival staff are answered in the order they are received. During certain times of the year four to six weeks may pass before a response is received. It is the Society's policy not to do research in or provide paper copies from collections in microform.

All records held by the State Archives can circulate within the Society's Area Research Center Network. An Area Research Center is located at each four-year University of Wisconsin campus (except Superior) and at the Superior Public Library. Thus, if a researcher near a Center wants to use a record stored in Madison, that record can generally be sent to the Center. In addition, records in microform are available on interlibrary loan.

Fees and Services

There are no fees or service charges for access to records at the State Archives. Twenty-five cents per page plus a $15.00 service fee is charged for copies prepared by State Archives staff; 10 cents per page is charged for copies prepared on-site by researchers. When necessary for legal reasons, the Society staff can certify the authenticity of copies of original records for a $10.00 fee.

Who to Contact

For access to records, contact Abbie Norderhaug 608-261-1037 or Sarah Grimm 608-261-1008.


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