Research Our Records

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I access NARA's accessioned Federal electronic records on the Internet?

    Yes, there are several ways you can access some of NARA's accessioned Federal electronic records through the internet.

    There are many finding aids, reference reports, and other tools available from the Electronic Records home page to make your search of our electronic records easier.

    Also, you can find a sampling of a selection of textual, photographic, cartographic and Presidential records via the National Archives Catalog or through the Digital Classroom, which contains information on ideas, programs and publications for teachers. There are also other online research tools and aids accessible on NARA's web site.

  2. How far back in time do your electronic records go?

    A few data files were originally created as early as World War II and reflect punchcard technology in use since the 1880s. An even smaller number contain information from the 19th century and even the late 18th century that have been converted to an electronic format. However, most of the electronic records in NARA's holdings have been created since the 1960s.

  3. Do I need special permission to use electronic records from NARA?

    Access to federal agency electronic records transferred to NARA is subject to the terms of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Information in some electronic records may be withheld in accordance with the exemptions authorized under the FOIA designed to protect national security, individual privacy, law enforcement in investigations, or proprietary interest. Statutory restrictions on electronic records transferred to the National Archives remain in force until the records are 30 years old, unless extended by the Archivist of the United States. The National Archives protects against unwarranted invasion of individual privacy, in general, for 75 years. In some cases where specific records or data elements within electronic records are restricted, NARA may make an extract of the records in a disclosure-free version, also known as a public use file.

  4. What are NARA's guidelines regarding the transfer of electronic records?

    Please see the transfer of electronic records page.

  5. What are electronic records?

    Electronic, or machine-readable, records are records preserved in a format that only a computer can process. The Electronic Records Division accessions, preserves and provides access to Federal Records that were transferred to NARA by agencies of the Federal government in a machine-readable format. Other NARA units have custody of Federal digital photographs, Federal digital moving pictures, Congressional electronic records, electronic records created by the Executive Office of the President.

  6. Hammer Award. Why is that hammer in a case hanging on the wall in the Electronic Records Division office?

    In 1996, the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and participating agencies were awarded the National Performance Review Hammer Award. Led by Vice President Al Gore, the National Performance Review recognized those federal organizations that contributed to building an efficient government. The Hammer Award is a frame containing a wooden- handled hammer and a handwritten message from the Vice President, "Thanks for helping build a government that works better and costs less." NARA serves on the FGDC and a number of NARA staff participate on FGDC subcommittees. Information about the FGDC can be found on the World Wide Web at

For further information about NARA's accessioned electronic records, please contact our reference staff at

Electronic Records Main Page