What You Should Know Before You Visit the National Archives at San Francisco
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
The National Archives at San Francisco
Leo J. Ryan Memorial Federal Building
1000 Commodore Drive
San Bruno, California 94066
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
If you plan to use only our microfilm resources or public access computers, no appointment is necessary. If you anticipate that you will require assistance with these resources, please contact our staff in advance of your visit.
Weekdays (excluding Federal holidays) from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
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:
- carrying cases/suitcases
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.
One self-service photocopier is available in the textual research room. Only loose documents that are 11"x17" or smaller may be copied using this machine. Bound volumes may not be photocopied or scanned.
There is a fee for making photocopies. You may pay for your copies by cash, check or credit card after you have completed your copying and counted your copied pages.
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.
- 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.
Scan-to-USB Machines Available
There are three machines that enable you to scan documents and save the files to a USB drive in the textual research room.
If you bring your own USB flash drive, you may do your own scanning to PDF, JPEG, TIFF, or BMP file formats free-of-charge. The machines can scan at resolutions between 100 and 600 dpi.
During periods of high demand we will limit use of these machines to fifteen minutes per patron, until all other researchers who wish to use them have had their turn.
You may wish to bring a laptop computer to preview files created using the Scan-to-USB machines.
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.
For your convenience, the research room is equipped with two copy stands you can use to mount your camera. We also provide several LED table lights for additional ambient lighting.
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.
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.
There are two self-service microfilm-to-paper copy machines in the research area. There is a fee for making photocopies from microfilm.