AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXIX , No. 1, Spring 2007


Brookhaven National Laboratory Records Management Program Preserves Historical Materials
by Corene Wood

T.D. Lee used a doodle pad during talks with C.N. Yang, while both were visiting scientists at Brookhaven in the summer of 1956. These discussions led to questioning the conservation of parity in weak interactions and resulted in their being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1957. Courtesy Brookhaven National Laboratory

In 2007, Brookhaven National Laboratory is celebrating 60 years of discovery. Since its inception in 1947, the Lab has been home to six Nobel Prize-winning discoveries and countless other advances. One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers.

Brookhaven National Laboratory maintains a Records Management Program to ensure that the Laboratory’s records are preserved, protected, and maintained, following rules laid out in the records schedules of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and DOE. The Records Management Office, located in the Laboratory’s Information Services Division, leads and coordinates the effort, and each BNL organizational unit designates one or more Records Representative(s). The Records Representatives are the first point of contact for staff on records matters.

The major elements of Brookhaven’s Records Management Program include the institutional File Plan, the BNL Records Inventory, and a Vital Records Program. At the present time, the Laboratory manages its records at the records series level, using a commercial software system (Documentum’s Records Manager). The Laboratory is presently evaluating software systems that will enable us to manage our electronic records at the document level in the future.

The Laboratory’s records are preserved and protected until they reach the end of their assigned retention period. Records with a long retention period and permanent records, including those that are of historical significance, are transferred to a federal records center, which is managed by NARA. Records are reviewed at the end of their retention period to determine whether they are eligible for destruction.

Until recently, the Records Management Office maintained an onsite Records Holding Area, which was used to store inactive records. In 2006, the Laboratory contracted with Iron Mountain for records storage and the Records Management Office dispositioned approximately 6,000 cu. ft. of records for transfer to Iron Mountain or the Federal Records Center.

The Laboratory also contracts with Iron Mountain for the storage of its vital records. Through the “Vital Records Program,” the laboratory has identified those records that would be needed to resume or continue critical operations in the event of an emergency, such as a fire or a natural disaster. To prepare for the possibility of such an event, the laboratory stores duplicate copies of its vital records at an offsite location. These records are updated on a specified schedule to ensure that, if needed, our vital records will be accessible, up to date, and ready for use.

As the Laboratory celebrates its 60th Anniversary, the Records Management Program is focusing its efforts on the preservation of archival information. This includes documentary information which falls outside the definition of a record, but which is of historical interest. Some examples include the personal papers of renowned researchers, including those of some Nobel Prize winners. The Records Management team at Brookhaven has developed a preliminary inventory of archival material and space has been allocated for an archive, where these papers may be preserved, displayed, and made available for use by scholars. Next steps are to collect the material and have it evaluated by an archivist.

For information, contact Corene Wood, Sr. Staff Specialist, P.O. Box 5000, Building 477, Upton, NY 11973;, or visit the laboratory’s Website at

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