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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.

Notice for Researchers

  • In the Research Rooms in Washington, DC and in College Park, MD, beginning December 27, 2010 all researchers will be required to use locking bags for removing reproductions, personal notes, and other papers.
    Learn more

The National Archives Increases Security in the Washington, DC Area

New security procedures have been implemented at the National Archives in College Park in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York City and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

The changes at College Park are similar to those that have been in place at the National Archives Building in Washington since May 1, 2001. Those changes followed a comprehensive review of existing practices and are bringing our security procedures in line with those at other Federal buildings of similar function and size.

National Archives at College Park

The only access to the public and the staff-only areas of the National Archives at College Park will be through doors in the main lobby, where an "airport-style" security procedure has been instituted. All visitors are required to pass through magnetometers. All packages, briefcases, and personal belongings must pass through an x-ray scanner.

Researchers and visitors approaching the building from Adelphi Road must stop at the first guard station and be prepared to show photo-identification. A NARA photo researcher card is the preferred form of identification, but a driver's license or other form of photo-identification is acceptable.

The cafeteria and adjoining patio remains open for use by the public.

Emergency call boxes on each of the three levels of the parking garage are now in service. The blue light on the top of the unit identifies the call boxes. Pushing the red button puts the user in immediate contact with the guard office.

National Archives Building in Washington

The security arrangements at the National Archives Building in Washington are unchanged from those instituted on May 1. Visitors entering the building from Pennsylvania Avenue will pass through the magnetometer and send personal belongings through the x-ray scanner.

After you have gone through entry screening, a security officer will give you an appropriate temporary NARA-issued identification. It must be worn at all times. It will indicate the areas of the building you are authorized to use for your work or visit.

Microfilm researchers will get a green ID card; textual researchers will get an orange metal disk to clip to clothing; and visitors (business or Government agency representatives) will get a red ID card.

Return these IDs to the security desk in the Pennsylvania Avenue lobby when you leave.

Prohibitions, Cautions

This entry screening in both Washington and College Park will enforce long-standing regulations that prohibit bringing firearms (except for law enforcement officers), dangerous weapons, explosives, or other prohibited items into a Federal building. A permit to carry a weapon issued by a local jurisdiction is not valid in a Federal building.

In addition, NARA also prohibits bringing into the buildings self-defense sprays (Mace or pepper spray, etc.) or any other aerosol spray that might damage documents.

Also, if you have a heart pacemaker or other medical device that might be disrupted by the magnetometer (or give a false reading), ask to be screened with a hand-held wand.

These are measures to protect you, our staff, the nation's records, and these buildings. One of our primary missions is to promote easy access to records, and we will make every effort to see that these security measures do not unduly interfere with your research or visit. Thank you for your cooperation.

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