The following guidelines are in place for managing e-mail used by either university offices or individuals. Before using these guidelines to ensure archival acceptable practices, please consult the record-keeping policies and rules with university records management. In evaluation, if the email is legally defined as a record, retain and file it in accordance to the university’s authorized records retention schedule and with the General Schedule for State Agency Records. While these guidelines are intended to apply to records being retained for historical research purposes, offices and individuals should evaluate their e-mail and determine whether it meets the legal definition of record: http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/ByChapter/Chapter_132.html
What to keep
As official University Records, sent and received e-mail messages are evidence of university’s history, transactions, and activities. For e-mail sent by employees, the record copy of an e-mail is usually the creator’s original message. When an e-mail is received by an employee, the record copy is usually the one received by the primary addressee. In cases when e-mail has been replied to multiple times, the record copy is typically the last e-mail in the case that all previous messages are included. Just as it does when the communication is transmitted on paper, the content of an electronic message determines its status.
Record life cycle and "life span"
Each organization, office, or isolated individuals should determine how long to keep which records based on its particular mission and legal, financial, and regulatory requirements. Considering e-mail messages and attachments as one document, or record, retention decisions can be based off three main categories: zero value, limited value, and enduring value. The first category, e-mails with no value are retained only up to thirty days. For the second category, e-mails with limited value are retained indefinitely. For the third category, e-mails with enduring value are retained permanently.
Electronic Record Retention
Additional information about handling email can be found through the UNC Libraries Email Management Workshop tutorial: