Research Our Records

Regulations for NARA Researchers

Who Can Use the National Archives

Anyone can use the National Archives. You do not need to be an American citizen or to present credentials or a letter of recommendation.

There are two requirements:

  1. There must be records or other materials on your topic among National Archives holdings. If you are better served by visiting your local library or another institution, we will refer you there.
  2. You must be at least 14 years old. Children under 14 can be admitted under limited circumstances and only with the prior approval of research room management. If you have questions, contact the manager of the research room you plan to visit.

Security and Preservation Regulations to Protect Records

What's Allowed in Research Rooms

  1. Before you enter the research room
    • You must leave personal belongings in free, secure lockers. This includes bags, carrying cases, briefcases, purses, books, notebooks, and notepads.
    • You can bring a coin purse or wallet into the research room.
    • We will provide (at some locations) notepaper, notecards, and a pencil.
    • Pens and highlighters are not allowed, nor are pressure sensitive notes, such as Post Its.
    • Pre-written notes must be on loose paper (not on a pad or in a notebook).
    • The staff must stamp your notes to identify them as belonging to you. Stapled notes can be stamped once on the back. Pressure sensitive notes, such as Post Its, must be removed or stapled to the page.
    • You may not bring items such as books, magazines, or newspapers unrelated to your research in the National Archives into the research room. Exceptions can be made at the discretion of the staff for materials closely related to your research. Excepted materials will be stamped or tagged. 
    • Computers and other electronic devices may be used depending on individual facility accommodations. Consult the local staff for details.
  2. Inside the Research Room
    When working with textual records:
    • You are responsible for safeguarding the condition of the records that have been brought to you. 
    • You may remove from a cart and open only one box or bound volume at a time. 
    • You may remove and open only one folder from a box at a time. 
    • The records should stay flat on the table at all times. 
    • The records must be kept in the same order in which they are given to you. If folders in a box or pages in a folder appear to be out of order, do not rearrange the records yourself. Alert the staff instead. 

    When working with still or motion picture records, 

    • You must wear white gloves, provided by the staff, to protect the records.

Complete regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations.
National Archives and Records Administration (36 CFR chapter XII)