National Archives at Chicago

Plan Your Research Visit


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.

See directions to our facility and hours of operation.

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, and telephone number..

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.


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 photograph or make scans while in the research room using your own camera or scanner free of charge. Scanners must meet NARA requirements and flash photography is prohibited.

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.


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 microfilm reader. It is rare for them to all be occupied.
  • Researchers using microfilm do not need a researcher ID card, but will be required to sign in.


Read more about planning your research at National Archives facilities.