Transferring digital information to the National Archives

As an Australian Government agency, there are several steps to transferring your digital records to the National Archives. At a high level, these steps are similar to those required when transferring paper-based or audio-visual information to the National Archives. However, for digital records there are specific requirements, as outlined below. Note: supporting information required for each transfer will be confirmed on a case by case basis.

Preparation for transfer

When preparing a digital transfer, we need information about: 

  • the system or application in which the records are managed  
  • the file format of those records 
  • the volume proposed for transfer in gigabytes/terabytes 
  • any security classifications associated with those records 
  • and metadata used for item level description. 

Identifying who your internal stakeholders are will help you gather this information. These stakeholders may include your:  

  • Recordkeeping/Information management team 
  • Business Owners  
  • Database administrator 
  • System owners 
  • Third party providers. 


The National Archives minimum metadata set outlines the minimum metadata required to support the transfer of digital ‘Retain as national archives’ (RNA) records. This metadata is used as part of the transfer process and ensures records can be effectively managed, preserved, understood, and accessed over time. We also encourage the transfer of any additional metadata, that provides further context about the records, as we can accommodate any additional metadata fields you provide. 

Descriptive metadata

Descriptive metadata describes the record and its context and is used as the basis for item level description. This in turn ensures a record is known, available and accessible. 

Validation metadata

In addition to descriptive metadata, we require metadata that allows us to confirm the fixity of digital records. Fixity ensures the integrity of a file by verifying that it has not been altered or corrupted during migration, transfer or while in storage. This is usually accomplished through the application of Checksums. 

Validation metadata for each digital file includes checksums, checksum algorithms and file path.  

Checksums and checksum algorithms

Checksums support the integrity of digital records during transfer. Checksums should be generated before transfer, and they are validated when the National Archives receives the transfer. The checksum used should comply with the Information Security Manual (ISM). Compliant checksums are currently the Secure Hashing Algorithm 2 (SHA–224, SHA–256, SHA–384 and SHA–512) with preference for SHA-512. Your Information Technology team will be able to assist you to access software required to generate checksums.

File path

The file path records each digital file's location in its directory structure and is necessary for checksum validation. 

Additional business system documentation

For some transfers, for example complex business systems, we may ask for other contextual information including: 

  • Data dictionary, which defines the data fields in a database  
  • Entity-relationship diagram or model, which helps us understand the data structures within a business system  
  • User manuals, which helps us understand how the business system was used. 

How do I provide digital records to the National Archives?

Specific arrangements are discussed and agreed for each transfer. Once a transfer has been approved by the National Archives, the volume of records in Gigabytes/Terabytes will influence the method of transfer. We use Secure File Transfer Protocol [SFTP] for digital transfers wherever possible. However, depending on the size and classification of the transfer, we may need to use endorsed hard drives. If a hard drive is required, we will confirm specific arrangements with your agency as part of the transfer process. We recommend agencies keep a copy of the records on a local system, until you receive confirmation from us of successful transfer.  


It is important to note that each digital transfer is unique, and we recommend contacting the Agency Service Centre early in the transfer process for more tailored advice. 

Please also refer to Transferring records to the Archives: Initial assessment questions as these questions are used to inform each transfer proposal.