Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Visiting NARA: Hours and Security

This is one in a series of articles about visiting the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA). The information in today's article is a mixture of personal knowledge from my recent visit to Archives I and information from General Information Leaflet (GIL) 57, Guidelines for Using Historical Records in the National Archives and GIL 71, The National Archives in the Nation's Capital – Information for Researchers.

Before you make your visit to the National Archives, it's suggested, although not required, that you call ahead and verify current hours, pull times and availability of your records of interest.


The best time for your first visit to Archives I is during business hours, Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm, since specialists are available to help you and original records can be pulled for you. Congress has funded extended hours for the remainder of 2008 for Archives I to be open Saturday (9am to 5pm) and evenings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (9am to 9pm).

Normal pull times are 10am, 11am, 1:30pm and 2:30pm. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday there is an additional pull at 3:30pm. Plan on arriving at 9:00am to allow time to make it through security and submit one or more pull requests no later than 9:50 in order to have original records pulled in the first pull. Wait to get your research card until after you've submitted your pull request. More on pulls later.


NARA Archives I Research Rooms Map
Map of NARA Archives I Research Rooms.
Not completely accurate or to scale.
© 2008, The Ancestry Insider.

When you enter Archive I (remember to enter from the Pennsylvania Avenue side) you'll find yourself in the security area, as shown at the bottom of the map to the right. You'll immediately be directed to your right to pass through airport-style security. Then you'll proceed to the security desk to register your electronic equipment and personal documents.

To prevent documents from being stolen from the archives, you should not bring any documents with you. If it is absolutely essential, you'll have to justify the need with the security officer who will probably do something to identify your documents so that you can take them with you when you leave. I didn't bring any, so I don't know what they do. Maybe they stamp them all or fill out a document receipt so they can be readily identified as your personal property when you leave. This makes it easy for security when they inspect you on your exit of the facilities.The archive will supply paper and pencils for note taking.

After signing in, the security guard will give you a building pass that you must clip to your clothing and display at all times. If you plan on using original records, be sure to get the color that allows that. I think it is yellow.

Equipment receipt

You'll be asked to show laptops, digital cameras and other electronic equipment. With prior approval, you can even bring flatbed scanners. The security officer will fill out an equipment receipt identifying the serial number of some of the devices you bring in to facilitate easy checkout when you exit. For multi-day visits, save your receipt; it is good for 90 days.


Proceed past the security desk and straight on into the next room. If you have a quarter, turn left and go all the way into the locker room. You need a quarter for your locker, so if you don't have one, turn right and go all the way to the cashier who can make change for you.

Stow all belongings, briefcases, backpacks, boxes, laptop cases, handbags, coats, jackets, sweaters (if you aren't wearing it), etc. in a locker. Keep nothing but your wallet, money, photo ID and/or research card, approved notes, laptop and digital camera. Lockers are available in all sorts of sizes, regardless of how big your need is. Slip the quarter into the lock on the inside of the door. Close the door and take the key with you. The quarter is refundable, so you can get in and out of your locker as often as needed. When you open your locker, retrieve your quarter from the slot beneath the lock.

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