Press Release
Press Release · Tuesday, July 23, 1996

Press Release
July 23, 1996
A New Online Research Resource from the National Archives and Records Administration

Washington, D.C. . . .The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announces a new pilot online service, the NARA ARCHIVAL INFORMATION LOCATOR (NAIL).

NAIL, funded through the support of Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, is an online, interactive database available via the World Wide Web. It provides unprecedented access to NARA's vast holdings; users with access to the Internet can now search many descriptions of NARA's holdings online for key words or topics, and then can retrieve digital copies of textual documents, photographs, maps and sound recordings.

NAIL contains a great deal of information about a wide variety of NARA's holdings. Initially focused on audiovisual material, NAIL contains descriptions of 2,500 still picture series and 20,000 still picture items; 85,000 films and videos; and 8,500 sound recordings. Select sound files and about 1,000 photographs, many of them digitized in a partnership with the University of Nebraska press, are online. Descriptions and select sample documents-- most relating to the American West-- include:

  • The House of Representatives territorial papers collection, 1810-1872, documenting America's expansion westward

  • The Senate Subcommittee on Indian Affairs files, 1928-1953, illustrating the culture, environment and governance of 20th century Native American tribes

  • More than 300 petitions sent to Congress in the 19th and early 20th century reflecting America's opinions on Native Americans, polygamy, suffrage and other issues of the day

  • Audio excerpts of an interview with the last surviving Confederate veteran

  • 100 maps and charts vividly tracing America's expansion westward

  • Descriptions and photographs of the Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane papers, as well as the Ingalls family homesteading records, showing students and fans alike the real story behind the Little House on the Prairie

  • Criminal case files for 50,000 individuals tried at Fort Smith in the Western District of Arkansas in the late 1800s revealing America's outlaw past. Some of these cases, including those for the Starr Gang and Wyatt Earp tried by the famous "Hanging" Judge Parker, are reproduced online.

  • files for the more than 50,000 Americans who enrolled in the Five Civilized Tribes between 1898 and 1914, which help genealogists trace their Cherokee, Creek or Seminole roots

NAIL was developed in response to a customer survey undertaken in Nebraska in 1994. The study concluded that citizens want information about NARA's holdings and services online, and wish to be able to access digital copies of selected documents online immediately.

The study also pointed out the need for NARA to present agency-wide information to the public in an integrated manner. The NARA web site and NAIL are the first steps in developing a nationwide information system for our Federal and Presidential holdings. Such initiatives are an integral part of NARA's newly-developed strategic plan and will revolutionize the way the NARA serves its customers.

The NARA web site provides to the public not only agency information; but general information for browsers, or " net surfers"; and specific information for researchers. The agency's mission, new strategic plan and the locations and hours of NARA facilities may be found. The "Visitor's Gallery" provides general information on NARA's public programs, including the very popular Online Exhibit Hall. Included here are electronic versions of many NARA exhibitions, including the "Charters of Freedom" - the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Finally, information about NARA's holdings is described in NAIL.

Although NAIL contains more than 200,000 descriptions, it represents only a tiny fraction of NARA's vast holdings. In a democracy the records that constitute our archives belong to the citizens. This initiative is an important first step to bringing the National Archives to citizens no matter where they are. t the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (202) 501-5525 or by e-mail at Visit the National Archives Home Page on the World Wide Web at


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