Records Management

How Long Do I Need to Keep E-mail and Text Messages?

Emails, texts, and other messaging applications used in the course of university business are considered public records. In general there are two types of business communications that you may delete once they have met their retention period: "routine" and "transitory." Anything that does not fit into one of these two definitions should be retained by the appropriate Records Retention Schedule. 

For more information on retaining messages see the Business Communication Records Retention Schedule.

Routine Communications

Routine communication comprises the normal communication that occurs when university employees, and sometimes their colleagues outside the UW System, work together to conduct public business on behalf of the university. This type of communication may be deleted 6 months after the business activity or project is completed.

Transitory Communications

Transitory communications are directly connected to the transaction of public business that is conducted by university employees, but has a short-term business value. This type of communication may be deleted after 7 days.

Transitory communication has no business value after the information contained in the message has been conveyed or superseded, or the event to which the message is related has occurred. Transitory communication does not establish policies, guidelines, or procedures; does not certify a transaction; does not become a receipt; and does not perpetuate or formalize business activities of the university. Transitory communication is not necessary for statutory, legal, or fiscal purposes; has no historical value; and would not be filed in a records management system.

Some examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Messaging that is not the basis for official action, such as news bulletins, holiday notices, charity and welfare appeals, or information about workplace events.  
  • Scheduling information pertaining to an event that has already occurred.
  • Courtesy copies of communications that convey information but do not require responsive action by the university employee who is the recipient, but not the creator, of the communication.
  • Listserv, or other resource provider for reference purposes.
  • A preliminary version of a document only by the recipient, but not the creator, of the communication.



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University Archives and Area Research Center
170 Chalmer Davee Library
(715) 425-3567