A link to guidance from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on use of
personal email accounts by Federal officials and a an illustrative example.
Arian Ravanbakhsh, a NARA manager and expert in Federal records policy, in 2017
reminded readers of Records Express blog that "Electronic messages, including email,
created or received in a personal account meeting the definition of a Federal record must be
forwarded to an official electronic messaging account within 20 days."
Link to his post:
Arian linked to the NARA Bulletin which reflects the statutory guidance on electronic
An example of why this might occur and how to ensure management of emails about official
business from my own experience years ago. At one point in my career, I served as the
sole historian for a Federal agency (not NARA, elsewhere). In 2001,.while I held that official
position, my twin sister, Eva, was diagnosed with late stage cancer, likely terminal. I
accompanied her to all her chemo appointments, which took up half a day for a week every
third week for three months during her last summer alive. Recent post on the governmental
legacy of my sister, a NARA official whose impact still felt within the agency, here:
or short link
I sometimes had printed copies of unlassified work related materials with me at the medical
center chemo sessions but no means yet to access my government email via mobile. I
didn't receive a government BlackBerry, issued in that agency to executives and to a few
program officials right below SES rank, for my dot gov account until a few years later.
The last year of my sister's life was very hectic as I physically had to oversee the move of
voluminous historical research materials in agency storage space while also keeping up with
my other duties. I worked into the evening at my office and came in on Saturdays and
Sundays to move boxes of materials to the new space, too, during the period I was my
sister's primary caretaker. But there also were times I needed to contact colleagues while
at the medical center. So during 2001-2002, I sometimes sent work related messages to
my agency colleagues using an AOL Communicator, a pager type "Research in Motion"
device then available for AOL email. (No Gmail available yet then, of course.) In every
instance, i sent such messages from the medical center with a cc to my dot gov account.
This ensured the messages were available in the dot gov accounts of recipients and also
within my own dot gov email account.
After I had a Fed BlackBerry, there were occasions where its battery ran down while I was
off-site at conferences, assisting my late Mother during medical appointments, etc., but my
iPhone battery still had a charge. More often I carried a cable and portable charger for my
iPhone only, although occasional a micro USB cable for my BB as well. On a few occasions, I
used my personal email account to send schedule updates or short time-critical messages to
my colleagues at that agency, always with cc to my dot gov account. This was due to my
being the only historian on staff at that agency and having no backup. I essentially was "on
There are good reasons why the pertinent records statute and guidance recognize that there
may be exceptional circumstances why Federal officials use private email accounts at times
and what they should do to ensure records management compliance. This should be the
exception, not the rule, of course. Effective records management depends on practical,
insight-based policy guidance that incentivizes compliance humanely, thereby centering the
person within the laws. Having experienced these situations during my career (now
retired), I understand the present statutes, regulations, and guidance. My thanks to those
who understand this and avoid demagoguery or partisan framing of issues which require
systemic solutions. While appreciating the former, I recognize the latter always will be
present from others, of course.
For reliable, authoritative information about Fedland RM practices and guidacen, follow
Records Express, where Arian and his colleagues post good, clear language explanations.
You see me with Arian (left picture, the other shows me with three a-v contractor
colleagues) on the Portico of at the top of the Constitution Avenue steps of the National
Archives on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, the day of the Capitals Stanley Cup victory parade.
Two happy longtime Caps fans!
or short link
If you are in Washington between today and the end of the business day on Sunday, June
17, 2018, stop by the #ALLCAPS pop up exhibit of hockey related patents in the West
Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives' Museum! Be aware that although filming for
Magic Hour (the Wonder Woman sequel) at 9th and Pennsylvania Avenue this weekend
affects the NARA entrance on the office side of the building, access to our Museum on
Constitution Avenue will be as normal.
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