The peaceful transition of power and knowledge from one Presidential Administration to another is both a cornerstone and a cyclical event of American democracy.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) plays a key role in the physical transfer of hundreds of millions of textual, electronic, audiovisual records, and artifacts from the White House at the end of the administration. This page answers questions about transitions and transfer of records to NARA.
View Frequently Asked Questions
What laws govern Presidential transitions?
The Presidential Transition Act of 1963, amended by The Presidential Transitions Effectiveness Act of 1988, The Presidential Transition Act of 2000, and the Presidential Records Act (PRA) govern Presidential transitions.
Are records created by the President-elect's transition team considered Presidential records?
No. For more about records pertaining to presidential transitions, see Guidance Relating to President-Elect Transition Team Materials
When are records transferred from the custody of the White House to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)?
Presidential and Vice Presidential records and artifacts from the outgoing administration transfer into the legal custody of the National Archives at the end of the President’s term of office. The incumbent President and Vice President maintain legal custody over the records and artifacts during their terms.
What materials are transferred to NARA?
NARA coordinates the transfer of hundreds of millions of textual, electronic, and audiovisual records that document all aspects of the constitutional, statutory, official or ceremonial duties of the President and the administration, both in the domestic and foreign policy arenas. NARA also takes custody of gifts given to the President and the President’s immediate family. These gifts are accepted on behalf of the United States and include a range of objects that have been received from foreign governments or the American people and foreign citizenry.
When are Presidential records be available for research?
Presidential records are governed by the Presidential Records Act (PRA). Under the provisions of the PRA, the public can access records five years after the end of the administration. At that time, requests can be made using procedures outlined in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or the Mandatory Declassification procedures in Executive Order 13526.
Do White House websites transfer to NARA?
The content on the White House websites are archived at the end of the administration and transferred to NARA. This content is preserved in the National Archives’ Electronic Records Archive. However, in order for the public to easily access the websites, the National Archives takes an additional step to "freeze" the websites and makes them available online. Because these archived websites are a historical record of the Presidential administration, NARA does not modify the content, and any broken links (internal or external) will not be updated.
The websites are an excellent resource for photographs, speeches, press releases, digital data, and other public domain records. Incoming administrations take ownership of the whitehouse.gov domain.
Does the National Archives receive archived social media content from Presidential administrations?
Social media content is transferred to the National Archives as part of the official records of a Presidential administration. The National Archives is committed to ensuring that these records are preserved and made available to the public following the provisions of the Presidential Records Act (PRA).
The institutional accounts on social media, such as @WhiteHouse, @POTUS, @VP, and @PressSec, transfer to the incoming administration. Social media content from the outgoing administration is archived under new account names on the native platforms. The archived accounts are maintained by the National Archives and continue to be available to the public as they were at the end of the administration.
Other official White House accounts are referred to as individual official accounts. NARA works with social media platforms to ensure that individual official accounts which are live at the end of an administration will remain accessible on their native platforms and be maintained by the National Archives. If White House officials use their personal accounts to conduct government business, any presidential record content will be preserved and transferred to the National Archives at the end of the administration.
The National Archives will make the social media content that is not accessible on their native platform publicly available as soon as possible.
How can I find out about employment opportunities within Presidential Libraries?
The Presidential Libraries system is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, an independent federal agency. Official job listings are posted on USAJobs. The National Archives website offers Employment Information at the National Archives and Records Administration.
Where can I find out more about the Presidential Libraries system?
Information about the history, laws and regulations, building standards, research, museums and more is available in the Presidential Libraries section on NARA's website.