Prologue Magazine

The Archival Research Catalog

Winter 2001, Vol. 33, No. 4 | Spotlight on NARA

Archival Research Catalog logoIf you have come to depend on the NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL), you may see something new the next time you log on. A new web page will welcome you to ARC—the Archival Research Catalog.

ARC is the National Archives Catalog that NAIL has been preparing us for. NAIL has served as the prototype catalog since 1996, helping online researchers find descriptions—and sometimes digital images—of hundreds of thousands of records held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) across the nation.

The standard search form will be very similar to NAIL—most researchers will not notice any difference but the name and some cosmetic changes. Those who use the advanced search form will discover that ARC has more sophisticated search capabilities than NAIL did.

Much of what is different about ARC, however, may not be immediately apparent to the public user. The biggest change is occurring behind the scenes, where information about the records is being entered into the database. What ARC users may notice is that their "hits" are returning more standardized descriptions. In the coming years, researchers will have access to a greater number of descriptions, as NARA's Strategic Plan calls for providing descriptions of 95 percent of the agency's holdings at the series or collection level in ARC by 2007.

Through ARC, a researcher sitting at a computer terminal anywhere can search for descriptions of documents held in NARA facilities across the country. NARA will continue to refine the catalog over time and welcomes suggestions for improvements.