Research Our Records

Research Room Rules

Researcher Registration

  1. A researcher identification card is required to use any archival materials or equipment at NARA facilities.
  2. A researcher identification card is required to use microfilm copies of documents in DC area and St. Louis facilities and all other NARA facilities where the Microfilm Research Room is not separate from the main Research Room.
  3. Researchers must apply for a researcher identification card in person using a valid government-issued picture identification, such as a driver’s license, school identification card, passport, or military identification card.
  4. Researcher cards can only be issued to individuals if the records they are researching are physically located within the National Archives. 
  5. Researcher identification cards are valid for one year.
  6. Researchers can renew their researcher identification card up to 30 days before expiration.
  7. Researchers must be at least 14 years old. Children under 14 may be admitted to NARA facilities with the prior approval of research room management and only if they are accompanied by an adult who will supervise them at all times.

Research Room Access

  1. All researchers must present either (A) a valid researcher identification card, or (B) a temporary (one-day use only) card, when entering a Research Room. If a card reader is available upon entry, researcher identification cards must be swiped in.  If the card reader is malfunctioning or if there is no card reader, research room staff must write the researcher's name and researcher identification number on NA Form 14004.
  2. Researchers are not allowed in the stacks, records holding areas, or other staff-only locations, except in the event of an emergency as instructed by staff.
  3. Research room staff/supervisors have the right to limit or modify access to records for researchers who are not following the rules.
  4. Researcher privileges are subject to suspension for those who physically or verbally abuse research room staff.
  5. Personal property including notes, electrostatic copies, equipment cases, personal computers, scanners, tape recorders, cameras, and other property are subject to inspection by staff or security guards when entering and leaving NARA Research Rooms or facilities.
  6. Some personal belongings are allowed in the Research Rooms, such as a handheld wallet and coin purse for carrying currency and coins, credit cards, keys, driver’s license, and other identification cards. These items are subject to inspection when researchers enter or leave the Research Rooms.
  7. If a researcher is bringing any personal notes into the Research Room, they must be inspected by staff. A NARA employee must stamp, initial, and date notes and other research materials approved for admission to the Research Rooms to indicate that the materials are a researcher's personal property. If there are a large amount of notes, researchers may inquire if the notes can be stapled together so only one authorization stamp and signature is required.  
  8. All materials and personal property being taken out of a room/facility must be inspected by staff or security prior to leaving. Where provided, the materials must be placed in a security bag to ensure multiple inspections do not occur. If a researcher is moving from research room to research room, no security bag is necessary, but inspection must be done.
  9. Once a security bag containing a researcher's reproductions or personal notes is locked by staff, only security can open it. Additional bags must be used in the event that researchers leave an item out of the first inspection. (DC area and St. Louis only)
  10. Overnight storage lockers are available Monday through Thursday on a first-come/first-served basis. All lockers must be cleaned out by Friday at 5:00 p.m. (DC area only)
  11. Visitors, such as service repairmen, must be escorted by a NARA employee, volunteer, or contractor employee and must have a visitor's badge.

Research Rooms - General Rules

  1. Research room hours are from 8:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. No members of the general public may enter the research complex prior to 8:00 a.m.  (DC area only)
  2. Phone calls are not allowed in the Research Rooms. Cell phone ringers must be turned off or put on vibrate. Researchers may make phone calls in designated areas outside the Research Rooms.
  3. Videotaping/photographing the Research Rooms, staff, or other researchers is strictly prohibited without prior authorization. Researchers should contact National Archives Public Affairs Office at (202) 357-5300 with questions.
  4. Researchers may only use original documents in designated research rooms at the facility where they are stored. Only microfilm/microfiche may be viewed in microfilm reading rooms. Records are not available for interfacility loans.
  5. NARA provides, without charge, pencils and specially marked lined and unlined note paper and notecards for use in the Research Rooms.
  6. The only AUTHORIZED bags allowed in the Research Rooms are clear (see-through) plastic bags that are 10" x 10" or smaller and used to carry electronics and authorized medications. Anything other than a 10" x 10" clear (see-through) plastic bag (such as: folders, bags, backpacks, fanny packs, purses, money belts, boxes, brief cases, suit cases, satchels, equipment bags, laptop cases, etc.) are NOT AUTHORIZED.
  7. The following materials are NOT AUTHORIZED in the Research Rooms: books, binders, notepads/paper tablets, pens (including ballpoint pens, felt tip pens, and markers), envelopes, cups (paper or plastic), adhesive backed notes (post-it), adhesive tape, paper clips, rubber bands, acrylic sheets (NARA will provide), metal rulers (NARA will provide plastic rulers for scaling purposes), and rubber fingers.
  8. The following clothing is AUTHORIZED for wear in the Research Rooms: vests with small exterior pockets, sweaters and sweatshirts (with or without hoods), scarves (no more than 3 feet long and 1 foot wide), suit coats, sports jackets, blazers, hats (for medical reasons and/or religious beliefs only). Hats (unless pre-approved for medical conditions or considered religious head coverings), overcoats, raincoats, ponchos, and other outerwear are prohibited. Written waivers for non-medical reasons will be provided by NARA staff. Religious head-wear (e.g. Jewish and Muslim skull caps, nuns' habits, Hasidic Jewish coat/hat, cleric’s robes, etc.) do not require a waiver.
  9. The following items are NOT AUTHORIZED in the Research Rooms: food or beverages (anything edible), hand sanitizer, lotions, lip balm, E-cigarettes, and any liquid of any kind (religious-related liquids included).
  10. The following writing materials are AUTHORIZED for use in the Research Rooms: loose paper, research notes,  and notecards that have the appropriate NARA stamps; paper copies of NARA holdings that bear the marking “Reproduced at the National Archives”; NARA forms, handouts, and published finding aids (unofficial NARA finding aids that have the appropriate NARA stamp); pencils (including mechanical style), etc.
  11. No records may be removed by non-NARA staff from Research Rooms.
  12. Researchers must return all records at least five minutes prior to closing.
  13. Researchers should note that preservation guidelines will be revised as necessary by NARA.

Research Rooms - Pull Requests

  1. Researchers must use microfilm copies or other alternative copies (such as digital copies) of documents when available, rather than the original documents. Exceptions must be approved by the custodial unit.
  2. Records are pulled from the stacks at times designated by each facility. 
  3. Pull requests may be submitted for the following day after the 3:00 p.m. pull. Records will not be pulled in advance for researchers if submitted via phone or email.  (DC area only)
  4. Pull limits exist in some facilities based on the nature of the records and space available for holding the records.
  5. The maximum that a researcher may have records checked out is determined by each facility based on the nature of the records and available hold space.  

Research Rooms - Records Handling

  1. Researchers must present their current (not expired) NARA-issued researcher identification card in order to sign out records.
  2. Researchers must keep a copy of the pull or tracking slips with the records, their folders, and/or their containers.
  3. When checking out records for the first time, researchers must sign and date the front of the pink copy of the reference request slip, and sign the date, time, and their initials on the back side. Thereafter, researchers must sign the date, time, and their initials only on the back of the pink slip.
  4. Researchers may only use one cart at a time, one box at a time, one folder at a time, and one file at a time to prevent misplacement of records within containers.
  5. Records should not be placed on the researcher’s lap, on a chair, or on the floor. Records should not be handled or read in mid-air. Records must be laid flat and viewed on top of a Research Room table.
  6. Researchers must never allow documents and/or boxes to hang over the edge of the table, be placed on the floor, or be stacked on top of other boxes.
  7. When placing records back in folders or containers, researchers must carefully align records on top of one another in a folder so that documents are fully supported and no edges of documents extend beyond the folder. Researchers should not tap or jog documents on end to align them.
  8. Researchers should not rest, lean, or otherwise exert pressure on records or their containers. Researchers should avoid having hanging identification badges and/or dangling jewelry or clothing (i.e. scarves) come into contact with records.
  9. Research Room allowable items (pencils, memory sticks, CDs, cameras, reading glasses, or other non-record materials) should not be placed on top of records. Electronic device cords should not rest on or drape over records.
  10. Researchers should not move or drag records across other records or against surfaces (such as tables or equipment) that might abrade them or cause them to break.
  11. Card index drawers must be pulled completely out and placed on a table or extendable boards for viewing.  Researchers should only pull one card index drawer from a cabinet at a time.
  12. Researchers should handle all records carefully. Volumes should not be forced open or subjected to pressure that will damage bindings and text blocks. Books should be properly supported when being handled. Researchers may not back-roll, back-fold, or “pop” creases in records in attempts to open and flatten them. 
  13. When removing or replacing records in containers, researchers should support records underneath with two hands, folder stock, or paperboard provided by NARA staff. Researchers should not grasp items by one hand or lift items by one edge or corner.
  14. Researchers should keep hands clean and free from any substance that could stain or damage records or their containers. This includes food, ink, toner, tobacco, saliva, hand lotion, hand sanitizer, and Tacky Finger fingertip moistener or similar products which cannot be used or brought into the room.
  15. Researchers are not allowed to write on records or their containers, or on paper that is placed on top of records.
  16. Researchers may not attach any fasteners (paperclips, rubber bands, staples, etc.) to the records.
  17. Records attached with any type of fastener, glue, wafers, or seals, and/or sewn with historic lacings and ribbons may only be separated, pulled apart, or back-folded by designated staff.
  18. Researchers must wear gloves on both hands when handling photographic materials (unless they are housed in protective sleeves), Photostats, reproduction slides, glass slides, and film. Researchers are not permitted to bring in their own gloves.  Researchers must use nitrile gloves provided by NARA and follow the size/fit guide. Gloves must be disposed of prior to leaving the room.
  19. Researchers are responsible for returning records to the appropriate container and must use a placeholder when removing files/folders from containers to keep records in order. Researchers should remove any placeholders when they are finished using the records.
  20. Researchers should keep records covered or in closed boxes or folders at all times except when they are actively using or imaging the records. Researchers may use empty file folders or sheets of acid-free Permalife paper (provided by staff) to cover records during short breaks (five minutes or less). Researchers should return all records to their folders and containers during lunch or longer breaks.
  21. Researchers must always keep records in their original order and never attempt to rearrange or correct records. Researchers should notify a staff member if they find a misplaced document or file.  In the DC area, they should also fill out a Researcher Request for Holdings Maintenance Action - NA Form 14139 (09-14).
  22. Researchers may not pass or share documents from the same box to or with another researcher.
  23. Records/carts may not be used by multiple researchers unless the researcher whose name is on the pull slip(s) is present. When multiple individuals are sharing a pull, they must use the same folder.
  24. Records carried to a monitor station must be supported in a file folder or other container.

Research Rooms - Copying/Reproduction/Equipment

  1. Researchers are required to obtain approval prior to imaging any records to determine if a declassification tag is necessary and if the records can safely be copied. In the DC area, a "Scanning/Photographing" authorization slip will be provided and must be visible at all times.
  2. Records larger than the copy board of scanners may be taken to the Cartographic Research Room for reproduction by a staff member. Oversize copying is limited to 10 items per day per researcher (no photographs permitted). Options for oversized scanning are Cartographic or a camera on the desk. No Still Picture holdings will be sent to Cartographic for oversize scanning. In such cases, researchers will need to speak to Still Picture staff for oversize imaging options. (A2 only)
  3. Researchers are responsible for complying with copyright or other use restrictions.
  4. Time limits on copying equipment may be enforced when other researchers are waiting.
  5. NARA staff shall have the right to inspect, without notice, work stations and imaging procedures and to be present at all times when records are being utilized. Researchers should consult NARA staff for clarification of these procedures or when any difficulties or problems arise.
  6. The following equipment is AUTHORIZED for use in the Research Rooms: DVD/VHS recording decks, video cameras (Beta Cam, Handi Cam, and camcorders), video cassette tapes, photographic cameras, photographic film, laptop computers (no computer cases allowed), flatbed or contactless scanners with no feeding mechanism, cell phones, iPads, tablets, and music players. Any other imaging equipment not listed here will need to be approved by Preservation staff prior to use with records.
  7. The following equipment is NOT AUTHORIZED for use in the Research Rooms: handheld scanners, scanning wands or pens (any imaging device that rests or comes into contact with the record), and external light sources. Smartphone supports are subject to approval.
  8. Researchers may bring unlimited DVDs/CDs for reproduction purposes. All researchers leaving the Research Rooms must have their DVDs/CDs inspected by staff before leaving.
  9. Tripods may be used but are not permitted to be placed on tables (with the exception of mini tripods), boxes, files, folders, or documents.
  10. Personal imaging or other equipment may not be stored overnight in the research complex. (DC area only)
  11. Use of flash photography is strictly prohibited.
  12. A staff member must stamp appropriate declassification authorization on any copies from records requiring declassification. If records are being photocopied/scanned/photographed and they require a declassification tag, that tag MUST be visible in all copies made.
  13. Researchers must make sure that all copies are properly marked/stamped as “Reproduced at NARA” well in advance of leaving for the day. Researchers should also make sure that all formerly classified materials are stamped as “declassified” with authority number.
  14. When visiting another research room within the same facility, researchers should be sure to have reproductions stamped. (DC area and St. Louis only)
  15. Researchers may request that their copies be certified before they leave the Research Room. NARA will certify copies of records for a fee only if they have not left the building.
  16. Researchers should limit excessive light exposure from equipment during imaging. Researchers should use a blank piece of paper or a non-record photocopy to make camera and lighting adjustments.
  17. Records being imaged/reproduced should not be left unattended.
  18. Stainless steel paperclips and Permalife paper barrier strips may be removed from documents prior to imaging but must be replaced post imaging to maintain document association.
  19. Researchers should make sure that volumes are properly supported during imaging. If the volume does not lay flat at the designated opening, a cradle or support provided by staff should be used on one or both sides. Fold-outs should be supported underneath with heavyweight paper or folder stock supplied by staff.
  20. Weights and acrylic sheets may be provided by NARA staff to assist in gentle flattening of records for imaging. Acrylic sheets must be larger than the item being imaged and may not be used on bound volumes. Acrylic sheets and weights may not be used on photographic materials.
  21. Polyester L-sleeves are a protective preservation measure for fragile documents. Researchers may not remove items from polyester sleeves or other protective enclosures without staff approval.
  22. Researchers should report any items that cannot be safely imaged prior to reproducing and seek further guidance from NARA staff. These include brittle or breaking items, warped or distorted objects, items that start to crack or break along weakened fold lines, rolled records, and oversized materials.
  23. For Motion Pictures, reference copies in researcher equipment are permitted if all equipment is routinely inspected prior to exiting the Research Room.
  24. For Motion Pictures, researchers may use more than one video recording station at a time based on how busy the research room is.  However, they must remain in the room while using the stations and may be asked to stop at any time to allow other researchers to work.
  25. Bound volumes and oversized documents cannot be scanned on a flatbed scanner. Any document that exceeds the dimensions of the imaging platen or is not completely supported by the imaging bed is considered oversized. Researchers must use a book cradle, book scanner, or camera scanners where provided. 
  26. Glass slides can only be photographed through light tables. When handling glass slides, the utmost care must be used and gloves must be worn at all times.
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