Planning Your Research Visit
First decide if you need to visit us in person
- We perform limited research for the public. Please read more about our Services for Off-site Researchers and our Research Support Services.
- If you can identify the records precisely enough to order copies, you may order copies of some record types online, or you may order copies through us or approved vendors.
- If you require extensive research assistance, we offer you the following lists of researchers who are available for hire.
Contact us before you visit - write or call ahead
Find addresses, phone numbers, hours and directions to our locations nationwide.
Our research rooms are open to the public. Each of our locations holds different groups of records. To make the most efficient use of your time, please write, telephone, or e-mail us in advance to make sure that the documents or the microfilm you want to see are at the location you plan to visit.
You should first try to determine where the records are by:
- Using the National Archives Catalog
- For microfilm available, search the Microfilm Catalog
- Check the Guide to Federal Records
For us to be able to answer your questions properly, you should be able to tell us:
- the Federal and/or presidential connection to your topic;
- what agencies, offices, or individuals were involved and what time period you are interested in;
- and what kinds of records (textual, maps, photographs, electronic, etc.) you are looking for.
If you expect to use records that may be security classified:
Advance notice is necessary so that the classification status of the records can be determined using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
When sending a letter or e-mail:
Include your postal address and telephone number so that we can contact you in case more information is needed. Please allow time for us to respond.
When You Arrive
Make your initial visit to any National Archives location, even those with extended hours
- during weekday business hours
- as early in the day as possible
- Archivists whose help is needed to begin research usually are not available during evenings or weekends. A late afternoon visit may not allow enough time for records to be identified and retrieved from the stack areas for use on that day.
- When you come to one of our locations to look at records, you will usually be issued a researcher identification card.
- During your research visit, keep good notes as to records consulted so that you can differentiate between multiple groups of records searched, and your steps can be retraced if necessary.
- Anyone can use the National Archives. You do not need to be an American citizen or to present credentials or a letter of recommendation. Read about Regulations for using the National Archives.
- You need to be 14 years old to do research at the National Archives, unless you receive permission from the Research Center Branch Chief and are accompanied by a parent or guardian.
- Read about Security Procedures at our Washington, DC and College Park, MD locations.
- New researchers at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC and the National Archives at College Park will view a PowerPoint orientation presentation before receiving a researcher card.
- Read more about Services for Onsite Users.