National Archives at Chicago

How to Use the Archives

Temporary Construction Closings
The Microfilm/Computer Research Rooms will be closed on Monday, May 28 and will remain closed Tuesday-Friday, May 29-June 1. We should reopen on Monday, June 4. The Textual Research Room (to review original records) is available during this time – enter the main entrance near the flagpole. Thank you for your patience during our renovations. If you have questions or comments, please contact Douglas Bicknese, Director, at or 773-948-9001.

Changes to Record Group 147 / 163 Availability
Effective Monday, March 19, 2012 all records in Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System, 1940- , and Record Group 163, Records of the Selective Service System (World War I), held at the National Archives at Chicago are temporarily closed while they are relocated to the National Archives at St. Louis.

Research can be initiated in person, by telephone, by mail, or e-mail. If you wish to use archival holdings on-site, please contact us before visiting.

If you're planning to visit us, please note the following information.

Rules and Regulations

Note that electronic and physical surveillance are used at our facility. Anyone entering or leaving this facility must provide valid photographic identification and is subject to an inspection.

Before using our archival holdings, every researcher must present a researcher identification card. To obtain this card, all applicants must:

  1. show official identification with a photograph, such as a driver's license, passport, school, or business ID card.
  2. complete a short form giving name, address, telephone number, and a brief description of the proposed research topic.

A researcher ID card, valid for 1 year and renewable, is then issued.

  • The card must be presented during each research visit.
  • The card cannot be issued in advance of your visit.
  • A researcher ID card is not required to view records or search databases in the microfilm reading room.
  • Children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

Only paper, pencils, and laptop computers may be used for note taking. Scanners must meet NARA requirements. Cameras may be used to photograph documents, but flash photography is prohibited. Briefcases, pocketbooks, bags, and other personal items must be checked in a locker or returned to your vehicle. Eating, drinking, and smoking are not permitted in the Research Room.

Cellular telephone conversations are prohibited in the research rooms. You are welcome to take your phone call outside or in the foyer.


Our self-service microfilm reading room operates on a first-come, first-serve basis.

  • Researchers are welcome to call 773-948-9001 and ask about the availability of a reserve a microfilm reader. It is rare for them to all be occupied.

  • Researchers using microfilm do not need a researcher's ID card, but will be required to sign in.


  • The availability of photocopies depends on the physical condition of the documents.

For preservation concerns, we don't offer a self-service copying option for original records. However, self-service microfilm-to-paper copying is available. You are able to make scans while in the research room using your own scanner free of charge.

  • Self-service microfilm copies:   $0.60 per page
  • Self-service microfilm scans:   $0.40 per page
  • Staff-made copies:   $0.80 per page
  • Certified copies:   $15.00 per certification
  • Mail Order:   $20.00 minimum
  • We accept money order, personal check (payable to the National Archives Trust Fund), and credit cards. We no longer accept cash. (Please see our Privacy Policy)

Upon request, staff will make or arrange for copies of oversized documents, certified copies for legal use, photographs, or other specialized copies. Fees vary depending on size and type of reproduction.

Tips for Handling Our Holdings

When you examine anything in our holdings, it's necessary to keep it in the original order, even if this order makes no sense to you.

 To prevent accidental misplacement or rearrangement of files, examine only one box and one folder at a time.

 Staff will provide cotton gloves if you're handling photographs or other materials that need special care.

 Ink poses a serious risk to original documents, so you'll need to use a pencil for taking notes. Our staff can provide you with a pencil if needed.

 Take care to avoid accidental damage to the documents. Never place your notepaper on top of a document you're studying or use your pencil as a pointer. Tracing documents is not permitted.

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