Research Our Records

Frequently Asked Questions Related to Research Room Reopenings

Revised August 23, 2021

  1. How do I know which research rooms are open?

Researchers should check the specific facility page to determine if a facility is open for research.

  1. How can I request an appointment?

Please email the relevant facility using the contact information on their facility page to request an appointment. Researchers should check the specific facility page for details and updates, as the situation can change quickly.

  1. Can I walk into a NARA research room without an appointment and be provided access to NARA’s holdings?

No, NARA has implemented numerous protocols to help protect the safety and health of staff, researchers, and visitors. The researcher must be scheduled for a research visit in advance, and a virtual consultation is required prior to the onsite visit. Additional information is available in a recent press release.

  1. How will my reference consultation be conducted?

You will have a virtual reference consultation prior to your appointment by phone, video, and/or email. The consultations will be used to advise researchers; determine if an onsite visit is needed or if there are viable alternative options such as copies or digital images of the records; narrow the scope of records requests for better efficiency and to reduce the amount of records to be pulled; provide referrals to other repositories if appropriate; and schedule research room visits, if onsite access to original records is needed.

  1. What are the research room hours?

The days and hours of operation for each research room are limited during this initial reopening period. Please refer to the NARA facility pages for additional information about hours.

  1. Are paper finding aids, card indexes, and/or photostat albums available to review onsite?

During the initial reopening, access to paper finding aids, card indexes, and photostat albums will be limited; however, NARA consultants can provide researchers with limited assistance identifying records for pulls during the advance consultation process. The availability of additional consultation onsite varies from facility to facility.

  1. Are microfilm readers, public access computers, copy machines, etc. available for use?

The availability of these resources varies from facility to facility, but are only available to researchers with scheduled appointments. You may email the relevant facility using the contact information on their facility page for details.

  1. Are teams or groups of researchers allowed?

No. Appointments are for one person only - no teams or groups of researchers will be allowed, per social distancing practices.

  1. How many days per week can I expect to be able to conduct research onsite?

The availability of times to conduct research onsite will vary from facility to facility, depending on researcher demand, staffing, and research room hours.

  1. How will the records I’ve requested be pulled?

Records will be pulled in advance and will be waiting at an assigned table.

  1. May I request additional records on the day of my research appointment?

If time permits, additional records may be pulled on the day of the visit, but the availability of additional consultation varies from facility to facility.

  1. What measures are in place to ensure the safety of researchers and staff?
  • Appropriate face coverings (no valve/vent) must be worn at all times in all NARA facilities located in areas with substantial or high community transmission and all NARA facilities in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. 
  • Unvaccinated individuals are required to wear appropriate face coverings at all times in NARA facilities, regardless of the community transmission rate.
  • The number of people in each research room will be limited.
  • Those who are sick or do not feel well must stay home.
  • NARA will implement safe social distancing through stanchions, physical barriers, floor markings, one-way paths, and directional guidance. Chairs will be removed and workspaces will be blocked to promote physical distancing between researchers. 
  • NARA will follow CDC cleaning guidance. In addition, researchers will contribute to sanitizing procedures by cleaning their assigned tables and equipment before and after their research.
  • Researchers should wash their hands thoroughly before entering and after exiting research rooms and regularly throughout their visit to the facility. Hand sanitizer will be readily available outside of the research rooms. Personal hand sanitizer will not be allowed in research rooms. (Please note: Researchers and NARA employees must always wash their hands with soap and water after applying hand sanitizer and before handling records.)
  • Contact tracing: If a researcher or NARA employee experiences COVID-19 symptoms while in a NARA research room or later reports symptoms, a diagnosis, or a close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19, NARA will use contact information collected during the researcher registration process to notify other researchers of a potential exposure. 
  1. Does NARA check temperatures of staff, contractors, or researchers?

No. However, anyone accessing a research room must confirm that they are not ill by answering the three questions below prior to arrival at the facility:

  1. Are you currently experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19?
  2. Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19 (with or without symptoms), or has a health care provider advised you to stay at home or otherwise self-isolate?
  3. Have you been in close physical contact (within 6 feet for longer than 15 minutes) with a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19?

If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions, please do not come to a NARA facility. Please seek medical attention, and contact NARA to let them know that you answered "yes" to one or more of the questions.

  1. How will NARA conduct exit inspections in a way that promotes social distancing?

Upon completion of research, NARA staff or security guards will inspect each researcher’s personal property for record material. This includes laptops, scanners, and other equipment where record material could be erroneously placed. To ensure staff and researchers maintain appropriate distance, this will be accomplished as follows:

  • Researchers will place equipment and materials to be inspected on their assigned table in plain view, for visual inspection. After placing the equipment on the table, they will step back to comply with social distancing requirements.
  • NARA staff or security guards will inspect the equipment/material, wearing disposable gloves, which should be immediately thrown away.
  • Upon completion of the inspection, the researcher will wipe down the table and their equipment using the 70% isopropyl alcohol provided and ensure that used paper towels, wipes, gloves, etc. are properly discarded.
  • Researchers may not be allowed to make photocopies, depending on the availability of copy machines at the specific facility, and will be encouraged to take notes using their phone, tablet, laptop, or other device. Additionally, researchers will be encouraged to limit the number of personal items they bring to a NARA facility.
  1. Will NARA provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for researchers?

No. Researchers must supply their own PPE. Researchers are permitted to wear their own latex or vinyl gloves. Gloves will only be provided to researchers for handling photographs, negatives, and film, as currently required by NARA research room procedures.

  1. What happens if an increase in COVID-19 cases causes a facility to regress or close?

If a facility regresses, and we are required to reduce the number of staff and researchers in a research room as a result, some appointments may be canceled. If this occurs, NARA staff will contact affected researchers to inform them that their appointment is canceled and to reschedule the appointment as soon as possible.

If a facility closes due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, NARA staff will contact researchers with upcoming appointments to inform them their appointment is canceled. Once public health conditions improve and the research room can reopen, staff will contact affected researchers to reschedule the appointment.

  1. What contact tracing procedures are in place?

If a researcher or NARA employee experiences COVID-19 symptoms while in a NARA research room or later reports symptoms, a diagnosis, or a close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19, NARA will use contact information collected during the researcher’s visit to notify other researchers of a potential exposure. NARA may share your name and email address with a governmental health authority should that information be requested for a COVID-19-related reason. If you do not want your name or email address used for these purposes, please email us at NARA will not use your email address for any other purpose without your express permission.

  1. Are lockers available for researchers?

Lockers will be available to researchers if needed.