National Archives at San Francisco

What You Should Know Before You Visit the National Archives at San Francisco

Research Appointments

Please contact us to set up a research appointment so that our staff can provide you with the best possible assistance during your visit.

We will respond within 10 working days of the receipt of your inquiry


Telephone: 650-238-3501

Mailing Address:
The National Archives at San Francisco
Leo J. Ryan Memorial Federal Building
1000 Commodore Drive
San Bruno, California 94066

Fax: 650-238-3510

What Staff Can Do For You:

  • Provide advice regarding holdings that might relate to your research topics
  • Furnish relevant finding aids to our holdings
  • Retrieve requested records so you can examine them in our textual research room

Personal Belongings

When visiting our facility, you must leave personal belongings in coin-operated lockers. The lockers are adjacent to the research room and are under staff surveillance. Lockers are operated by inserting a quarter, but the quarter is returned every time the locker is opened.

No food or beverages are allowed in the research areas.

All researchers must place the following items in a locker:

  • bags
  • carrying cases/suitcases
  • briefcases
  • purses

There are further restrictions for what may be brought into the textual research room.

Researcher Registration & Orientation

All researchers viewing original records at our facility must have a National Archives researcher identification card

  • To obtain a researcher identification card, you must complete a short application form and show a form of government-issued identification that includes a photograph, such as a driver's license, state identification card, or passport

  • The researcher identification card must be presented during each research visit

  • Researcher identification cards issued at other National Archives facilities are accepted at our facility.

As part of our commitment to make records available to researchers both now and in the future, the National Archives requires that all researchers viewing original records complete an annual orientation to our researcher rules and guidelines. When you come in for the first time you will be given paper copies of these documents as well as a verbal orientation from one of our staff. You are encouraged to ask staff for clarification about any of the requirements.

A researcher identification card is not required to view microfilm or use the public access computers.


Self-Service Photocopies and Digital Scans 

Our self-service copier is available for $0.25 per page (up to 11 x 17 inches), payable by credit card, money order, or check. The copier can be used to make paper copies or digital scans. If you are scanning, you will need to provide your own flash drive.

If you wish to reproduce pages from a bound volume or an oversize document (i.e. map, drawing), we recommend photographing these records. If the image you make using your camera is inadequate, please ask our staff for assistance.

Researchers may bring their own laptop, flat-bed scanner, camera, or similar equipment, provided that the equipment meets NARA's preservation standards. Equipment that could potentially damage documents will not be approved.

Strictly Prohibited:

  • Photocopiers
  • Drum scanners
  • Hand-held scanners
  • Any equipment with automatic feeders or multifunction devices
  • Any equipment may come in contact with records in a manner that causes friction, abrasion, or otherwise damages records

Space considerations in our research room may also be a factor as to whether your equipment will be permitted into the research room. NARA reserves the right to discontinue the privilege of using such equipment at any time without notice.

You may not copy or scan any document larger than the glass scanning bed on your own scanner or on any equipment provided by the National Archives.


You may use a digital or still camera to photograph original documents in our research room. You must disable the flash and any audio signals on your camera. Electronic flash equipment and studio lights are not allowed in our research room. Any equipment that could potentially damage documents will not be approved.

Photographic equipment should be compact in size so as not to disturb or displace our other patrons. Our research room is small and frequently filled to capacity. For your convenience, the research room is equipped with two copy stands you can use to mount your camera. 

You must obtain permission to bring in any equipment not specified here. Contact staff with permission requests or any questions regarding these guidelines. Equipment permission requests should describe precisely what you wish to bring and how you propose to use it.

Everything brought into the research room is subject to inspection upon arrival and departure. We reserve the right to discontinue the privilege of using any reproduction equipment at any time without notice.

Microfilm Photocopies

There are two self-service microfilm-to-paper copy machines in the research area. There is a fee for making photocopies from microfilm.