Research at the National Archives


Hi, I’m Karla. I am a graduate student.
I have been using the Civil War records here at the National Archives for my own research
and I’m going to show you how you can use the records yourselves. The research entrance
is on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the Archives. You will need a photo ID to enter
the building and once you go through security they’ll give you a yellow badge. Before
you can gain access to the records you first have to come to the registration office and
get a researcher’s card. It’s simple, free and easy to do. Go through the power
point slides, and it will give you information about NARA’s rules and policies on how to
use the records. You’ll have your picture taken and receive your researcher’s card.
The next step is the Finding Aids Room. There are three subject matter experts who are here
to help you with any questions that you may have. If the records you need are on microfilm
it’s pretty much self-service and you can come to the microfilm room on the first floor.
If the records are not on microfilm then you need to get the originals from the stacks.
So you need to fill out a request slip. This is also called a “pull slip.” A consultant
reviews your request. Records are pulled from the stacks five times a day and are delivered
to the Central Research Room, room 203. Before you go into the research rooms you must place
your belongings inside of one of the lockers on the first floor. You’re not allowed to
take water, paper or your bags. No pens, no food. But you can bring computers, scanners
and cameras upstairs. When you enter the researcher’s room, you must first hand your researcher’s
card to the guard. And the guard will swipe you in. Next to the guard is a table full
of paper and pencils for note taking. The research room will hold records for your use
up to three days. Each time you retrieve them you initial the time and date on your pull
slip. Before making copies, Archives staff will examine your records to make sure they
can be safely copied. There are self-service scanners and copiers for a fee. When you finish
for the day, your copies and personal property are inspected and placed in a locked green
bag. When you leave the building a guard will unlock the green bag and give you the contents.
The guard will also hand-search your personal bags. Good luck! And enjoy your time at the
National Archives.

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