Assistance from NARA Staff
The records are voluminous and complex and it can be difficult to navigate through the files of the various foreign affairs agencies. As noted in the FAQ on how to make your visit more successful, communicating with the Reference Staff at the National Archives before your visit will likely improve your research experience. This is especially true in the following circumstances:
- if the records date from the 1960s and later;
- if you are dealing with agencies involved with foreign affairs, intelligence, defense/military activities, and law enforcement;
- if you do not have precise National Archives record group and entry numbers or file number citations to the files of various agencies;
- or, if you are unsure that records exist.
While the reference staff cannot undertake your research for you, they can do some preliminary work to identify the file categories in the Department of State’s central files likely to contain documentation of interest or locate other series with pertinent records. Doing that work takes time, however. It cannot be done effectively while you are waiting in the Research Room.
Be sure to contact the Reference staff as soon as possible, even while you are in the preliminary stages of formulating your topic. At a minimum, you should make contact 3-4 weeks before a research visit.
Reference staff is available in the National Archives at College research consultation area from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for legal holidays. For those wanting a more in-depth explanation of the records or with difficult or advanced research projects, the senior specialist on foreign affairs records is present in the 3rd floor consultation area every Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The senior specialist is also available by request for consultation at other times Monday through Wednesday. Among other things, the specialist can answer questions about the organization and content of the universe of foreign affairs records and help you plan a research strategy.