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When you arrive


What to expect when you research at the National Archives

  • This video addresses procedures and security measures at the National Archives in Washington, DC, as well as how to use the research room and records.

Plan Your Research Visit

First decide if you need to visit us in person

Contact us before you visit - write or call ahead

  • For us to be able to answer your questions properly, you should be able to tell us:
    • the Federal and/or presidential connection to your topic;
    • what agencies, offices, or individuals were involved and what time period you are interested in;
    • and what kinds of records (textual, maps, photographs, electronic, etc.) you are looking for.

When You Arrive

  • Make your initial visit to any National Archives location, even those with extended hours
    • during weekday business hours
    • as early in the day as possible
  • Archivists whose help is needed to begin research usually are not available during evenings or weekends. A late afternoon visit may not allow enough time for records to be identified and retrieved from the stack areas for use on that day.

  • When you come to one of our locations to look at records, you will usually be issued a researcher identification card.

  • During your research visit, keep good notes as to records consulted so that you can differentiate between multiple groups of records searched, and your steps can be retraced if necessary.

  • Anyone can use the National Archives. You do not need to be an American citizen or to present credentials or a letter of recommendation. Read about Regulations for using the National Archives.

  • You need to be 14 years old to do research at the National Archives, unless you receive permission from the Research Center Branch Chief and are accompanied by a parent or guardian.

  • Read about Security Procedures at our Washington, DC and College Park, MD locations.

  • New researchers at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC and the National Archives at College Park will view a PowerPoint orientation presentation before receiving a researcher card.

  • Read more about Services for Onsite Users.

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272