National Archives News

An Update for Researchers From the Archivist

May 24, 2021

 

Dear Researchers,

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The National Archives Building in Washington, DC. (National Archives file photo)

It has been too long since we have been able to welcome you to our research rooms. As I noted last summer, we miss seeing you in person and helping you with your research.

I am proud of the work done by National Archives staff to serve the public by responding to as many inquiries as possible while working remotely. They have also been working on projects which will have long term benefits in support of public access.

We nonetheless understand that our remote services are not a substitute for being physically in the research room, and we are excited to announce that we are starting the process to resume research room operations, while keeping our staff and researchers alike, safe.

We are launching a pilot to test the policies and procedures we have developed. This week, we will welcome a small number of researchers to the National Archives Building in Washington, DC (Archives I) to start this process. We will also launch a pilot at the National Archives at College Park, MD (Archives II) no later than June 21. We will then expand the opening of research room services to the rest of the research rooms over the summer, depending on local health conditions, lessons learned and best practices identified in the early stages, and availability of staff.

Research visits will be by appointment and will require a virtual consultation prior to the onsite visit. Boxes of records will be pulled in advance and will be waiting at an assigned table. Research appointments will be for an entire day, and will accommodate a second pull. Our research room procedures will promote social distancing, while otherwise allowing us to serve records in a secure manner.

Both pilots will start with appointments by invitation to researchers who have significant onsite research experience at the pilot locations. This will allow us to best test our new policies and procedures by gaining insight from researchers most familiar with our pre-pandemic research room operations. As we expand the reopening of our research rooms, we will provide opportunities for researchers to engage with us to improve the researcher experience, while also keeping everyone safe.

Until we are able to completely open, many of our services are available online:

The National Archives Catalog contains archival descriptions of our holdings and is the online portal to over 139 million pages of digitized records.

Researchers can ask—or answer—research questions on History Hub, a crowdsourced history research platform sponsored by the National Archives. Researchers can also search History Hub to see if a question has already been asked and answered.

National Archives staff are responding to reference questions or requests for records sent to inquire@nara.gov and to specific units’ email addresses.

Members of the public can explore our online resources by visiting www.archives.gov and viewing our online exhibits.

Teachers and parents can use our educational resources.

Everyone can help the whole community by volunteering in our Citizen Archivist Missions.

The National Archives’ Presidential Libraries and Museums website includes online education resources, virtual programs and exhibits, and information on conducting remote research at the 14 libraries.

Check out our popular Record Group Explorer, and Presidential Library Explorer, finding aids that provide visualizations of the digitized data in our Catalog and simple paths into the records.

Thank you for your patience as we carry out our mission during this unprecedented time. We send our best wishes for your good health and well-being, and we look forward to starting to welcome you back to our research facilities.

 

Sincerely,

David S. Ferriero


DAVID S. FERRIERO
Archivist of the United States

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