Borrowing Documents or Artifacts for Exhibitions
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is our nation’s recordkeeper. An independent Federal agency created in 1934, the National Archives is charged by Congress to safeguard records of all three branches of the Federal Government. Our mission is to ensure Federal officials and the American public ready access to essential evidence - records that document the rights of citizens, the actions of government officials, and the national experience. The National Archives preserves and provides access to records through a national network of presidential libraries, regional archives and records centers stretching from Boston to San Bruno from Atlanta to Anchorage.
NARA’s loan policy allows qualified institutions to exhibit original documents, artifacts, and other historical materials from its accessioned holdings for temporary periods up to one year.
This program provides expanded public access to NARA’s archival and museum collections and helps educate the public about the American national experience. In order to minimize the risk to loaned items and ensure their availability to future generations, borrowers must agree to meet certain security and environmental requirements.
Loans are made for public exhibition only for educational purposes and must be accessible to the public. Exhibitions must be of sufficient length to warrant the costs and risks associated with loans and exhibitions.
Loans may not exceed 12 months of wall-time and may be shorter for fragile or light-sensitive items.
The borrower and NARA must sign an Outgoing Loan Agreement or legally binding contract stipulating the rights and responsibilities of each party.
NARA may decline to loan certain records and artifacts because of their condition, exhibition history, agency business needs, conflict with NARA’s mission or professional ethics. NARA may deny a loan request when the proposed facility does not comply with NARA’s loan requirements.
If an item cannot be loaned because it is too light sensitive, fragile, or otherwise unavailable, NARA staff may offer a facsimile or suggest a substitute.
A formal written loan request must be made at least 120 days before the loan.
NARA staff may make site inspections before and during the loan to ensure compliance with loan requirements. NARA reserves the right to recall loaned items for good cause at any time and will attempt to give reasonable advance notice.
For loans of U.S. House and Senate records, NARA must obtain permission of the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate respectively.
Fire Safety and Security
The borrower must house and display NARA items within a secure space in a fire-resistant building that meets local and national fire and building codes. Fire detection and security systems must be connected to a central station and comply with local codes. Adequate and appropriate fire suppression systems are required in storage, preparation, and exhibition areas. For additional fire safety guidance, see NFPA publications 909, Standard for Fire Protection of Cultural Property and 914, Standard for Protection of Historic Structures.
Buildings housing the loan items shall have sufficient 24-hour guards or a 24-hour electronic security system to effectively monitor and protect the exhibition, storage, and preparation areas at all times. A trained security guard or other trained personnel must patrol the exhibition area during public hours. For high-security items, a guard may be required during non-public hours.
Appropriate measures must be taken to prevent visitors from touching objects. Documents and other small items must be exhibited in locked cases or with a secure wall hanging system with glass, acrylic, or other appropriate glazing.
A trained museum, archives, or library employee must monitor exhibition on a daily basis.
Site inspections may be required at the borrower’s expense before the loan.
The borrower can display records only in locations specified on the loan agreement and cannot transfer physical custody of loaned items or documents to a third party or other institution.
Additional requirements may be necessary for high-security items, including 24-hour guard service, alarms, cameras, etc.
The borrower must have up-to-date emergency response and disaster recovery plans.
Eating, drinking, and smoking must be prohibited in the storage, preparation, and exhibition areas.
Temperature must be maintained between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and may not fluctuate more than 5 degrees in a 24-hour period.
Relative humidity must be maintained between 40-50 percent and may not fluctuate more than 5 percent in a 24-hour period.
NARA may request copies of hygrothermograph or data logger charts from the exhibition gallery to verify that requirements are being met. The borrower must notify NARA immediately if conditions go beyond these temperature and relative humidity ranges. NARA reserves the right to withdraw the loan if environmental requirements cannot be met.
Special requirements may be specified, and some items may require specially designed cases to ensure even tighter environmental control. In-case monitoring devices may be required.
Loan items must be protected from all sources of ultraviolet light and direct natural light. NARA will stipulate light levels on the loan agreement. For paper, textiles, and other light sensitive materials, lighting must be 5-10 footcandles or less. Lower light levels may be required for especially light-sensitive materials. Appropriate light levels will be specified for less sensitive materials.
Packing and shipping arrangements will be specified on NARA’s Outgoing Loan Agreement. NARA will determine methods based on condition, size, and value of items.
Items that are too large to be handcarried may be crated and transported via a fine arts shipper or other appropriate means.
Small, high-value items must be handcarried by NARA staff at the borrower’s expense.
If an item is transported by air travel and the package will not fit underneath the seat, the borrower may be required to pay for a second seat to hold the package in transit.
Couriers transporting high-security items may be required to travel first class and may require a security escort.
Courier and shipping arrangements are to remain strictly confidential for security purposes.
NARA Conservation personnel are available to provide guidance on conservation requirements for exhibition cases, frames, mounting methods, light levels, etc. For additional guidance, see the National Information Standards Organization’s Environmental Conditions for Exhibiting Library and Archival Materials and the National Park Service’s Exhibit Conservation Guidelines. NARA reserves the right to specify its own requirements for its records.
The borrower may not alter, clean, repair, or treat loaned items or remove them from polyester encapsulations, acrylic packages, mats or frames without the express written consent of NARA.
Borrowed items must be handled only by museum, archival, or library professionals on the borrowing institution’s staff, their accredited representatives, or NARA staff.
The borrower must insure loan items under an all-risk, wall-to-wall fine arts policy. Before the items leave NARA, a certificate of insurance must on file. NARA must be named a beneficiary or an additional insured on the borrower’s policy. NARA will assign values on the Outgoing Loan Agreement. Valuations are confidential.
All loan-related costs are the responsibility of the borrower, including but not limited to, site inspections, packing and shipping, photography, conservation, insurance, courier travel and related expenses, and matting, framing, mounts, or book cradles.
U.S. Federal law governs al loan agreements for all purposes, including, but not limited to, determining their validity, the meaning of all provisions, and the rights, obligations and remedies of the parties to the agreement. In the event that Federal law does not apply to a particular question or matter, the Parties to the agreement will decide what State law will govern.
Definition of loan
A loan, as defined by NARA, is the legal temporary transfer of physical custody and responsibility for a record or artifact from NARA’s holdings to another institution, under the terms of a loan agreement for a specific purpose, time period, and location. Loans are for a defined period of time specified in a loan agreement and are subject to recall.
To request a loan of documents or artifacts for exhibition, an authorized representative from the borrower should write to the:
Registrar, Museum Programs, Office of Records Services, Washington, DC; or a director at one of the Presidential libraries; or a director of archival operations for records from one of NARA’s regional archives. See address list.
Please include the following:
Exhibition title, a brief description of its theme and content, exhibit site, dates of exhibition and loan period, a list of items (with complete citations), and copies of requested items, if available.
A completed and signed American Association of Museums (AAM) Standard Facilities Report for the exhibit site (unless a report less than three years old is currently on file with NARA and remains accurate). This report is available from the AAM Bookstore (202-289-1818), Washington, DC. If the exhibit will travel, each site must submit a Facilities Report.
Floor plan of exhibition galleries.
Insurance information, including policy exclusions and deductibles.
Upon approval of a loan, the borrower will be asked to:
Sign NARA’s Outgoing Loan Agreement and return it to NARA.
Accept responsibility and provide written assurance for loan costs, including preparing, packing, shipping, courier travel, photography, and insurance. NARA will provide estimated costs as soon as possible.
Send a letter confirming specific logistical and financial arrangements for courier trips.
Provide specific information about exhibit cases design and materials, frames, display methods, etc. Provide a certificate of insurance listing NARA as beneficiary or additional insured.
After receiving the loan items, the borrower must:
Verify the accompanying Condition Report and notify NARA of any change in condition of any item within 48 hours of receipt.
Sign, date, and return the Outgoing Receipt.
Update insurance certificate, if needed.
Notify NARA immediately if any alteration, damage, or loss occurs. Loan items may not be removed from encapsulations, mats, frames or be altered, cleaned, or repaired without written permission from NARA.
The borrowing institution may photograph loan items for purposes of catalog, publicity, and condition only. Loan items may not be removed from their housing for photography without permission from NARA. Unless otherwise noted in the loan agreement, the public is authorized to photograph items for personal use without flash.
At least one month before the exhibition closes, contact NARA to discuss plans for de-installing and returning loaned items.
You have submitted a loan request to borrow original documents or artifacts from the National Archives, one of its regional archives, or a Presidential library. What happens next?
While the details may differ from loan to loan, NARA staff activities behind the scenes include:
Reviewing the Facilities Report
Locating and verifying that the items requested are available for loan during the period requested
Assessing the condition of the items
Preparing treatment proposals, if necessary, and performing conservation treatment on the items
Arranging photography of loan items for documentation and exhibition catalog
Recommending possible substitutes if requested items are too fragile or otherwise unavailable
Confirming insurance coverage
Arranging for the items to be moved from storage
Arranging for mats, frames, cradles, or other mounts needed for exhibition
Determining the best mode of packing and shipping and making the necessary arrangements
Preparing the loan agreement, receipts, condition reports, and other loan documentation
Coordinating internal and external schedules to make sure deadlines are met
These tasks take time, but NARA will track your loan request through all the necessary steps. Please feel free to contact us at any time if you have questions concerning the status of your loan request.
Office of Records Services-Washington, DC
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD
of Presidential Libraries
National Archives at College Park
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
210 Parkside Drive, P.O. Box 488
West Branch, IA 52358-0488
4079 Albany Road
Hyde Park, NY 12538-1999
500 West U.S. Highway 24
Independence, MO 64050-1798
200 SE 4th Street
Abilene, KS 67410-2900
Boston, MA 02125-3398
2313 Red River Street
Austin, TX 78705-5702
18001 Yorba Linda Blvd.
Yorba Linda, CA 928861
303 Pearl Street, NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504-5353
1000 Beal Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2114
40 Presidential Drive
Simi Valley, CA 93065-0699
1000 George Bush Drive, West
College Station, TX 77845-0410
Frederick C. Murphy Federal Center
380 Trapelo Road
Waltham, MA 02452-6399
One Bowling Green, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10004
900 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107-4292
1557 St. Joseph Avenue
East Point, GA 30344-2593
7358 South Pulaski Road
Chicago, IL 60629-5898
400 West Pershing Road
Kansas City, MO 64108
501 West Felix Street, P.O. Box 6216
Fort Worth, TX 76115-3405
Building 48-Denver Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225-0307
23123 Cajalco Road
Perris, CA 92570-7298
1000 Commodore Drive
San Bruno, CA 94066-2350
6125 Sand Point Way, NE
Seattle, WA 98115-7999
654 West Third Avenue
Anchorage, Alaska 99501-2145