Information for Researchers at the National Archives at Washington, DC
The National Archives Building in Washington, DC (Archives 1), houses historical records of all three branches of the U.S. Government (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial). Our holdings include:
- Records of the U.S. Congress (U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives);
- Records of the U.S. Supreme Court and the District Court for the District of Columbia;
- Pre-World War I military service records for U.S. Army and Confederate veterans;
- Pre-World War II vessel and station log books for the U.S. Navy; and
- Headquarters-level records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Land Management, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the U.S. Census Bureau (among others).
The Archives 1 Reference staff provides reference services for the Executive and Judicial records housed in the National Archives Building.
The Center for Legislative Archives provides reference services for the records of Congress and on the record set of Publications of the U.S. Government. Please see their Research Portal page to learn more about these records.
The National Archives Building in Washington, DC, is located between 7th and 9th Streets, NW, with entrances on Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues.
- The research entrance to the building is on Pennsylvania Avenue.
- The Rotunda entrance, which includes the Exhibit Hall and Museum, is on Constitution Avenue. Please see the Museum's Visit Us page for more information.
- Both the Pennsylvania Avenue and Constitution Avenue entrances are wheelchair-accessible.
The following video provides an overview of orientation and security procedures at Archives 1, as well as research room rules and policies. For further information, please see the headings below.
Researchers must present valid photographic identification to conduct research in our holdings. Please see our Security Requirements page for more information.
In most cases, researchers must also be at least 14 years of age to conduct research in our holdings. Please see our Research by Minors page for additional information and exceptions.
Research identification cards are required for all visitors to our research center. First-time researchers to our facility will need to register for a research card once they have passed through security and entered the research complex on the first floor. Returning researchers should present their current research card to staff upon arrival.
During the registration process, first-time researchers will view a short PowerPoint orientation that emphasizes the safe handling of records and explains our basic research rules, responsibilities, and procedures. Researchers will then present valid photographic identification and complete a short form asking for their full name, permanent address, telephone number, and proposed research topic.
The orientation and registration process generally takes between 15 and 20 minutes to complete. Once issued, research cards are valid for one year with the option for renewal.
Please see our Research Card Requirements page for more information.
Research groups of five or more are asked to notify the Archives 1 staff well in advance of their scheduled trip. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with information about your group's visit.
A limited number of public-access computers are available for researchers to use once they have obtained their research card. These computers are located on the first floor near the registration desk.
Researchers can access paid genealogical databases such as Ancestry.com and Fold3.com free of charge through these computers, as well as free sites like FamilySearch.org and the National Archives Catalog. Researchers may bring flash drives to use in downloading images.
NARA microfilm publications are available to view in our Microfilm Reading Room on the ground floor. Our microfilm publications are self-service, so researchers do not need to wait for a specific pull time to use them. We simply ask that researchers retrieve and view only one roll/reel of microfilm at a time.
Records are pulled on a continuous basis from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. However, because it can take up to an hour to complete a pull, most pull requests will need to be submitted by 3:00 p.m. to allow staff time to deliver records to the research room.
Archives 1 Reference staff members are available to consult with researchers and review pull slips from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Consultation Room on the first floor.
Once pulled, original records are taken to the Central Research Room on the second floor.
Summary of Central Research Room Rules:
- Researchers must present their valid research card at the security desk in the Central Research Room. Once signed in, researchers should proceed to the main desk directly opposite the door to inquire about the records that they requested.
- 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.
- Paper and pencils are provided to researchers. Pens and notebooks are not allowed.
- 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.
For additional information, please see:
A limited number of self-service copiers are located in the Central Research Room. Researchers can use the copiers to make paper-to-paper copies or scan records and save the images on a personal flash drive. Before copying any textual records, researchers must show a staff member the original material that they wish to duplicate.
Researchers using public-access computers or microfilm readers on the first floor can also make copies of documents. Researchers are encouraged to bring a flash drive to save copies of records they download or scan.
- Copies (paper or digital) made using the self-service copiers in the Central Research Room are 25¢ per page.
- Copies (paper or digital) made using the microfilm readers in the Microfilm Reading Room are 40¢ per image.
- Copies (paper) made using the public-access computers on the first floor are 10¢ per image. Digital copies that researchers download and save to their personal flash drives do not incur a cost.
A debit card system is used to pay for self-service copies. Staff will assist researchers in setting up their research card as a debit card. Machines to add money to the card are located on the first floor and in the Central Research Room.
These machines accept bills and credit cards. Do not bring coins. Unused money on research cards cannot be refunded.
For more information, please see our Self-Service Copying page.
Researchers may use their own personal computers (laptops, notebooks, etc.), flash drives, approved scanners, tape recorders, tape decks, cameras, and other equipment in our research rooms, but cases, bags, and boxes must remain in lockers. Personal copiers and auto-feed or hand-held scanners are not permitted.
On-site parking is not available to the general public. There are numerous public parking garages located within the vicinity.
The Metrorail System in Washington, DC, serves the National Archives at the Archives/Navy Memorial station (Green and Yellow Lines). Take the elevator leading to the street entrance, which is conveniently located across the street from our Pennsylvania Avenue entrance.
A free staff shuttle bus runs between the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, and the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. Researchers may use the shuttle if space is available.
- The shuttle operates from Monday through Friday only.
- Departing from Washington, DC:
- A shuttle leaves every hour on the hour beginning at 8:00 a.m. and ending at 5:00 p.m.
- Pick-up is at the National Archives bus shelter located on 7th Street between Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues, NW.
- Departing from College Park, MD:
- A shuttle leaves every hour on the hour beginning at 8:00 a.m. and ending at 5:00 p.m.
- Pick-up is in front of the College Park building.
Distance from Local Airports:
- From Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA): 4 miles
- From Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD): 28 miles
- From Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI): 32 miles
See also The National Archives in the Nation's Capital, Information for Researchers, General Information Leaflet 71.
The Charters Café is open to researchers from 8:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. A small seating area with vending machines is available.
Other options include eating outdoors on the Mall or at the U.S. Navy Memorial. Food may also be purchased at nearby attractions including: