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Information for Researchers at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC
- Research at the National Archives in Washington, DC
- Orientation and Research Room Procedures
The National Archives Building in Washington, DC (Archives I), houses textual and microfilm records relating to genealogy, American Indians, pre-World War II military and naval-maritime matters, the New Deal, the District of Columbia, the Federal courts, and Congress.
- Textual Records:
The Old Military and Civil Records unit of the Textual Archives Services Division provides reference services on those federal records in the National Archives Building that originated in the Executive and Judicial branches of government. Most of these records were created prior to 1900 and include documents created or accumulated by the following government agencies: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Census Bureau, Coast Guard, Customs Service, U.S. Army Commands (1784-1821), U.S. Army Continental Commands (1821-1920), War Department, Veteran's Administration, and Washington-based components of the Judicial branch. Contact the unit at: National Archives, Washington, DC 20408 by mail, by e-mail, or by telephone 202-357-5311 (old military records) and 202-357-5411 (old civilian records).
The Center for Legislative Archives provides reference services on the records of Congress and on the record set of Publications of the U.S. Government.
See also Textual Records Services in the Washington, DC Area
- Photographs and Graphic Works:
Interfiled with textual records in Washington, DC, are many thousands of photographs. The Still Pictures Research Room is in College Park, Maryland (a free shuttle bus runs there on an hourly basis from DC.)
National Archives holdings include records on microfilm reels, microfiche, and a number of other micrographic formats. These records were either transferred to NARA by the originating agency in that form or converted by NARA for the convenience of preservation and reference of the original record. The latter are released by NARA as part of its Microfilm Publication Program.
Researchers may examine records on microfilm, and other micrographic formats, and finding aids in the Microfilm Reading Room at the National Archives Building, Washington, DC. The bulk of the records located at the National Archives Building, Washington, DC, are primarily of interest to genealogists.
Many of NARA's microfilm publication roll lists and descriptive pamphlets are online. By searching the Microfilm Catalog, you will be able to find out if a roll list or descriptive pamphlet is available, and at which NARA Location.
Related special media and nontextual records, such as cartographic and architectural records, motion pictures, audio recordings, videocassettes, still pictures, and electronic records are located at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
Researchers will need to show a photo ID, and must be at least age 14.
Records are retrieved Monday through Friday for use in the research rooms at:
- 10:00 a.m.
- 11:00 a.m.
- 1:00 p.m.
- 2:00 p.m.
- 3:00 p.m.
There are no pulls on Saturday.
- Public Reference Information: (202) 357-5400
- Center for Legislative Archives: (202) 357-5350
- Genealogy Staff: (202) 357-5400
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.
Researchers first visiting Archives I, the National Archives and Records Administration building in Washington, DC, proceed to the Research Center on the first floor.
From there you will have access to:
- Genealogical consultation
- The microfilm reading room
- ALIC: Archives Library and Information Center, including genealogical resources
- Consultation with an archivist
Research identification cards are required for all visitors to the research center. You can get your research card at the registration desk within the microfilm reading room.
During the registration process, new researchers will view a short PowerPoint orientation emphasizing the safe handling of records and explaining the most basic research procedures, responsibilities, and rules. New researchers should plan for a total of 15-20 minutes to complete the registration process.
All records are currently taken to the Central Research Room 203.
Paper and pencils are provided to researchers. Pens and notebooks are not allowed.
Researchers may bring approved loose paper research notes, hand-held wallets, and coin purses into research rooms, but those items are subject to inspection when researchers enter or leave the research complex.
Researchers may not bring briefcases, backpacks, purses, boxes, or other large containers into the research rooms.
Lockers are available. A quarter is required, but is refunded when the locker key is returned. The lockers are emptied nightly.
Please see the following additional information:
- What's Allowed in the Research Rooms
- Rules for Using Historical Records in the National Archives [GIL 57]
Research groups of 10 or more are asked to notify the Genealogy staff well in advance of their scheduled trip. In addition, introductory lectures may be available for your group if requested at least 2 months in advance. Please contact the Genealogy staff for more information: 202-357-5400 or KYR@nara.gov.
- Customer Service Center Telephone Number: 1-866-272-6272
- Lost and Found: 202-357-5023
- Contact us by e-mail
- NARA Organizational Phone List
- NARA Employee Locator
Paper to paper copies of most documents can be made on self-service copiers at a cost of 25¢ per page. Microfilm to paper copies are 50¢ per image. Before copying any textual records, researchers must show a staff member the original material they wish to duplicate.
A debit card system is used to pay for self-service copies. You may use your research card as a debit card. Machines to add money are located in the research rooms. These machines accept bills and credit cards. Do not bring coins. Unused money on your card cannot be refunded. When the cashier is closed (after 4:30 Monday -Friday and all day Saturday), it is not possible to get change in the building.
Read more about copying...
Researchers may use their own personal computers (laptops, notebooks, etc.), approved scanners, tape recorders, tape decks, cameras, and other equipment in the Research Center, but cases, bags, and boxes must remain in lockers. Personal copiers and auto-feed or hand-held scanners are not permitted.
See also The National Archives in the Nation's Capital, Information for Researchers, General Information Leaflet 71.