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.
Map of NARA Archives I Research Rooms.
Not completely accurate or to scale.
© 2008, The Ancestry Insider.
To view original records, you'll need to obtain a researcher identification card. While the website and GIL 71 state that you can register for a research card during extended hours, my wife was not allowed to do so at Archives I.
I got my research card at Archives II, so forgive me if the process is a little different at Archives I. Ask at the reception desk, but I believe you'll proceed past the information desk into the next room, and then go to the far left end of the room. To receive a research card, you must be 14 years of age or older, have a photo identification and a rudimentary knowledge of what records you intend to examine.
You'll read through a short slide presentation on a computer that covers the basics of record handling. After 20 to 30 slides taking 15 to 20 minutes you'll fill out and submit a form with your contact information. Then you'll go and get your picture taken. They will then create and give you your finished card. You can see mine to the right.
Once you have a research card, anytime you sign in to the archives or to a research area, you can jot down your research card number in lieu of your contact information. If you skipped signing in at the reception desk and/or the reference desk to get your card, return to each and check to see if they want you to sign in.
For more information, read Getting a Researcher Identification Card.