Research Our Records

Research Room Guidance

Who can use the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)?

Anyone can use the National Archives. You do not need to be an American citizen, present credentials, or have a letter of recommendation. You are required to provide valid identification. 

Protecting the Records

When working with records, be responsible and safeguard their condition. Records may be served on a cart and contained in one or more boxes. Only open one box, container, or bound volume at a time. If the records are in folders, only remove and open one folder from a box at a time.

The records must be kept in the same order in which they appear within a box, container, or folder. If records appear to be out of order, do not rearrange the records yourself. Alert the staff for assistance.

Take care to avoid accidental damage to the documents. Keep records flat and on the table, do not bend or fold records. Never place your notepaper on top of a document you are studying or use your pencil as a pointer. 

When working with still or motion picture records, wear gloves, provided by staff to protect the records.

Etiquette and Courtesy

Keep good notes concerning the records you consult. Your research may utilize multiple record groups, donated collections, record series, entry numbers, local identifiers, filing codes, and other points of reference. Keeping track of the steps taken to locate records is a researcher's responsibility. Research room staff may be able to provide limited assistance if necessary.

Cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices should be set to silent. Research room staff may ask you to silence your devices if they become disruptive. Exit the research room to receive or make calls, participate in video conferences, or to engage in other potentially disruptive activities.

Personal Items and Equipment - What's Allowed?

Personal items are limited inside NARA research rooms. Certain personal items, materials, and equipment may pose a risk to records. Explore our Research Room Rules page for an in-depth listing of rules pertaining to our research rooms. Explore our quick reference list of what items are allowed and not allowed in NARA research rooms by clicking the links below: 

Persons and Personal Use Items

Notes and Related Materials

Special Equipment

Clothing and Personal Effects

Persons and Personal Use Items

Allowed Not Allowed
  • All persons with a valid researcher identification card

  • Visitors, such as service repairmen, must be escorted by a NARA employee and must have a visitor's badge.

  • Persons without a valid identification, or children under 14 years old 

  • Food, candy, gum, anything edible 

  • Water, beverages, drinks, anything liquid (includes religious-related liquids) 

  • Cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or any other tobacco products 

  • Hand sanitizer, lotion, lip balm 

Notes and Related Materials

Allowed Not Allowed
  • Stamped research notes on loose paper, NARA-issued paper, note cards and handouts 

  • Research materials approved for admission into research rooms; materials will be stamped or tagged before admission 

  • Pencils and mechanical pencils 
  • Envelopes, notebooks, pads, binders, folders 

  • Sticky notes (unless stapled to approved pre-existing notes) 

  • Pens, highlighters, markers, and other types of non-approved writing utensils 

Special Equipment

Allowed * Not Allowed **
  • Video and audio recording decks 
  • Cameras, camcorders, and tripods
  • Photographic copy stands (with approval) 
  • Video tapes, audio tapes, and film 
  • Scanners (only contactless or flatbed without auto feed) 
  • Personal computers, tablets, and cell phones 
  • CDs/DVDs 
  • Flash photography or bulbs 
  • Personal copiers/copy machines
  • Scanners with auto feed attachments, whether the attachment is disabled or not 
  • Scanning wands or pens (also known as hand wand scanners) 
Please Note:

*All equipment must be removed from cases and the cases stored in lockers

**Any non-government owned equipment is prohibited in the classified research rooms

Clothing and Personal Effects

Allowed Not Allowed
  • Sweaters and sweatshirts, with or without hoods; short (waist length), indoor business attire (such as suit jackets, sports coats, blazers, or waist-length indoor jackets with or without zippers). Note: All clothing in the research rooms must be worn at all times as designed. Sweaters and sports jackets cannot be worn around the waist or placed on chairs or tables. 
  • Scarves that are no more than three feet in length and one foot wide 
  • Vests (with exterior pockets and no inner pockets) 
  • Religious headwear and garments 
  • Small silk or similar indoor-type kerchiefs 
  • Coin purses or small pocket sized wallets 
  • Small eyeglass cases 
  • Clear plastic "sandwich/food storage type" bags for holding small items no larger than 10" x 10" 
  • Outerwear: Garments worn over indoor clothing primarily as protection against the elements, such as overcoats, coat-type sweaters, windbreakers, and jackets (other than indoor business attire)*** 
  • Hats, caps, and unapproved head coverings; scarves (more than three feet in length and wider than one foot) 
  • Purses, fanny packs, briefcases, suitcases, handbags, backpacks, boxes, bags, equipment bags, or containers of any kind 
  • Clear plastic bags if larger than 10" x 10" 
  • Multi-pocketed vests: camera vests, photographer vests, safari vests, fishing vests, and similar outerwear 

*** Please Note:
You may be asked to remove any outer clothing that is wet or contains outdoor debris. NARA reserves the right to determine whether a garment is considered to be outerwear.