Open Government at the National Archives

Archival Descriptions from the Online Catalog xml

What is the data?

This dataset provides archival descriptions of the permanent holdings of the federal government in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The archival descriptions include information on traditional paper holdings, electronic records, and artifacts.

Please note the Online Catalog is a work in progress. Almost two-thirds of our records are already described in the Online Catalog at the series level. Learn more about the Online Catalog.

How do I access the data?*

These files are compressed because of their size. Use WinZip or a similar program to extract the contents of the files. Each compressed file contains thousands of XML files.

The following data files represent Archival Descriptions available through May 27, 2014.

* Please note these files are zipped. You'll need to use Winzip or a similar program to unzip.

Archival Description XSD

Technical documentation provides details on what XML tags are used.

Why was this data selected?

Many of the government's permanent records are not yet available online. The Online Catalog is a finding aid to the permanent records of the federal government in NARA's custody, whether the records are online, or available in our research rooms.

What high value criteria does it meet?

Access to the government's permanent records:

  • can be used to increase agency accountability and responsiveness
  • improves public knowledge of the agency and its operations
  • furthers the core mission of the agency
  • creates economic opportunity
  • responds to need and demand as identified through public consultation 

Is this the first time the data is available?

These archival descriptions are published in the Online Catalog. This is the first time the data is available as raw data in XML format.

Who may be interested in this information?

Researchers, veterans, family historians and genealogists, academics, and records managers.

Who do I contact if I have questions about this data?


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