National Archives at Seattle

Plan Your Research Visit

The National Archives at Seattle provides researchers the opportunity to view original records created by Federal agencies in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.  Because each record is a unique and irreplaceable piece of American history, researchers must follow certain rules, requirements, and guidelines in order to ensure the continued preservation of the records.   

Research can be initiated in person, or by email, mail, or telephone. Please refrain from submitting requests in multiple formats.

Our research rooms are open to the public. Each National Archives facility holds different groups of records. To make the most efficient use of your time, please email, write, or telephone us in advance to make sure that the documents or the microfilm you want to see are available at our location. Please help us better serve you by taking note of the following:

  • To view original records in our research room, please email or call us in advance to schedule an appointment. Send an email to or call us at (206) 336-5115.

  • We do not pull original records for use in our research room after 3:00 p.m.

When submitting an inquiry, include your contact information so that we can reach out to you in case more information is needed. All requests are answered in the order they are received, regardless of the method you use to communicate with us. Please allow 10 business days for us to respond. We often are able to respond much sooner than that.

In order to answer your questions properly, please tell us:

  • your topic and what you are looking for;

  • what Federal agencies, offices, or individuals may have been involved and the time period you are interested in;

  • the kinds of records (textual, photographs, maps, drawings, etc) you are looking for.

Using Original Records

This information is only a brief introduction to what you should expect when you are working with original records at the National Archives at Seattle.  It is not a complete list of our rules and regulations.  Before you can begin working with records, you will be required to read through our researcher orientation guide.

Obtaining a Researcher Card

Before using our archival holdings, every researcher must present a valid Researcher Card issued by the National Archives at Seattle or another NARA facility. New researchers should plan for a total of 15-20 minutes to complete the registration process. To obtain a Researcher Card, an applicant must:

  • Show official identification that includes a photograph. Acceptable IDs include driver’s license, passport, and school and employment identification.

  • Complete a short form giving name, address, telephone number, and a brief description of the proposed research topic.

  • Review a short orientation binder emphasizing safe handling of records and explaining the most basic research procedures, responsibilities, and rules.

Your Researcher Card must be present during each research visit.

Renewing or Replacing Your Researcher Card

  • Your Researcher Card is valid for one year.

  • You may renew your card at our location.

  • If you forget or lose your Researcher Card, talk to the staff when you arrive on your next planned research visit.  If your card was issued at Seattle, we may be able to issue you a replacement

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 may bring in your own pencils and loose paper, or we can provide these for you.

  • 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).

Inside the Research Room

  • Only paper, pencils, and laptop computers may be used for note taking.

  • When you are using records in the Research Room, you can almost always make your own copies of both paper records and special media, such as photographs. Please talk with staff before beginning copy work.

  • Our self-service copier is available for $0.25 per page (up to 11 x 17 inches), payable by credit card 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.

  • Personal Scanners must meet NARA requirements.

  • Cameras may be used to photograph documents, but flash photography is prohibited.

  • Our facility does not have a Wi-Fi (wireless access) network.

  • Eating, drinking, and smoking are not permitted in the Research Room.

  • Cell phones must be set to silent. Researchers need to step into the hallway to receive or make calls.

  • View a full list of allowed and prohibited items here.

Tips for Handling Our Holdings

  • 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.

  • Take care to avoid accidental damage to the documents. Never place your notepaper on top of a document you’re studying or use your pencil as a pointer.

  • Keep good notes as to records consulted.  Doing this will help you differentiate between multiple groups of records searched and your steps can be retraced if necessary.  If necessary, staff can show you how to properly construct a citation.

Using the Public Access Research Room

General Information

  • The Public Access Research Room is open 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday.

  • You do not need an appointment to use the microfilm or public computers in the Public Access Research Room.

  • You must leave personal belongings in free, secure lockers.

  • Our facility does not have a Wi-Fi (wireless access) network.

  • Eating, drinking, and smoking are not permitted in the Research Room.


  • Our microfilm collection has more than 1000 microfilm publications.  Each publication contains reproductions of records created by a Federal government agency, the originals of which may be held at another National Archives facility.

  • Original records on microfilm in our collection include Federal censuses, naturalization and immigration records, and military pension records.  To learn more about our microfilm collection, check out our Microfilm Holdings Guide.

  • We have three different types of microfilm readers available for use.  We have standard readers with no reproduction capabilities, two readers that are connected to printers, and one that is connected to a computer that can used to download digital copies of pages from the microfilm.

  • Please note that we do not have all of the microfilm published by the National Archives.  If we do not have a microfilm publication, we may be able to get it for you from another NARA field site.  For more information on this service, please contact us before your visit.

Public Computers

  • We have several computers with internet access available for public use.

  • The National Archives provides free access to several different genealogical resources on these computers, including Ancestry and Fold3. 

Research Assistance

  • Our full time staff is available to introduce you to the basics of the Public Access Research Room.  Staff members can show you how to search for microfilm in our collections, how to use the microfilm readers, how to access the free online resources, and how to begin your research.

  • The Public Access Research Room is staffed by volunteers at various times throughout the week.  These volunteers are a great resource if you need a little more guidance with your genealogical or historical research.  They are here to help you with whatever you may need. 

  • If you would like to visit at a time when a volunteer is working, please email us at or give us a call at (206) 336-5115.