Notes on Using the Textual Research Room

1. The National Archives II building itself opens before the 9 a.m. opening time for the Textual Research Room, so it is worth arriving early to get the preliminaries out of the way and be at the reading room’s entrance by its opening time.  If it is your first time, be there by 8:30 a.m.

2. A security guard at the entrance to the grounds will ask your purpose and your ID and direct you to the parking garage.

3. There is no charge for parking.  The parking garage sits on a slope as you approach the NAII building.  You can either enter the garage at its bottom level (the first entrance) and park inside or continue up the drive to the second entrance which puts you on the roof of the garage.  That is the closest place to park to the NAII building entrance.

4. After entering NAII, you first go through airport-type security to one side of the lobby.  The lobby is shown in the following photo, courtesy National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  Click it once or twice to enlarge it further.

5. Next comes the Researcher Orientation Registration Room.  Its hours are 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.  After viewing a video on the rules of use of NAII you are issued a Research Card, i.e., a photo ID card which doubles as your debit card for operating the photocopier/scanners.  Any reference material that you need to carry with you into the Textual Research Room must be stamped and initialed here at the desk.  If you plan to use any electronic equipment—scanner, lap top, or camera—you no longer need to register each item.  You will simply show the equipment to the security guard along with any papers you have.  Rules governing use of such equipment are available at the Researcher Orientation Registration Room.  There are power outlets on the cubicles for researchers in the Textual Research Room.

6. Then go downstairs.  Make a right and look for the “Telephones and Researcher Lockers” sign located behind a display about NAII (the pay phones have all been removed).  Bring a quarter with you to operate the locker. If you forget, you can use the change machine next to the vending machines in the little room adjacent to the cafeteria. Leave jackets, pens, books, pads of paper, sticky notes, etc. in the locker.  Also, cases for your electronic equipment must be stored there.  Only notes and pencils or mechanical pencils are permitted in the reading room.  Red pencils are not permitted.  And for those of you using carts to move your scanner, lap top, etc., there are large red lockers at the far right end of the locker room that can hold everything.

7. Return to the main level.  Go through the turnstiles and show your Research Card and any equipment and papers to the security guard who will record the  number of your Research Card.  The former cashier’s office where you could have money credited to your Research Card is no longer open.   Instead, there are two Copy Card Pay Stations, one next to the former cashier’s office and the other just inside the entrance to the Textual Research Room near the Information Desk which will accept cash and credit it to your Research Card.  If using cash, bring small bills ($1, $5, $10, or $20) because it does not give change).  But it will also take credit cards.  In addition, it is now possible to go online to increase the credit balance on your card.  There are instructions at the Information Desk on how to register your Research Card if you have not already done so and you can use one of the public access PCs located in the part of the room behind the Information Desk or your own laptop  The electronic displays on the photocopiers tell you how much money remains on your card.  Keep your Research Card for future visits to NAII because your archives account with the remaining funds is linked to the number on the card.  In addition, it is much faster to renew an expired card than to be issued a new one.

8. Proceed to the second floor where the Textual Research Room is located.

9. Check in with the Information Desk near the entrance to the Textual Research Room.  They will log in your card.  The following photo, courtesy of NARA, shows the research area.  It is more spacious than the photo suggests because there are additional research cubicles to the left under the overhang of the floor above and behind the photographer. The Short Term Copiers Desk is off to the right and somewhat obscured by the photocopiers and cart.  The Copy Center Desk is in the far background.

10. Behind the Information Desk is a large wood panel display with the words, “Help Us Protect Your Records.”  On the other side of the display is a part of the room equipped with eleven public access PCs and three printers.  In addition to providing Internet access, they are linked to NAII’s website.  In the Research Consultation Room (see below), there are additional PCs and printers.  One of the archivists will provide you with a password and help you get set up to use the equipment for searches of NARA’s databases that are not accessible on the Internet.  The NAII building is equipped with WiFi so that if you bring a laptop, you can access the Internet from your cubicle.

11. Turn left and go to the room labeled Research Consultation.  It contains various finding aids and has archivists available to help you.  It is divided into “Civilian” and “Military” (see overhead signs).  Complete the order forms, known as Reference Service Slips  (see example below).  Enter the number from your Research Card in the space labeled, “Agency or Address.”  A large chart propped on top of a bookcase just inside the entrance explains how a slip should be completed.  On the slips, enter the reference numbers of the boxes of files you want.  The number of file boxes to be pulled should not exceed 24, the capacity of the cart used to transport them.  Turn the Reference Service Slips over to one of the archivists who will check them for completeness, time stamp them, and place them with other slips for the next pull time.  For your convenience, you may want to find a research cubicle near whichever copiers you will be using.

12. When I last checked on NAII’s hours (May 2014), it was open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.  Pull times (the deadlines for submitting Reference Service Slips) for documents were 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.  (There are no pull times on Saturdays.)   (If any of your documents have not been declassified, i.e., stacks 490 and 631, pull times are only at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.)  But you should confirm their hours by going to their website at

13.  If you are requesting large numbers of documents, as soon as you submit your first set of requests, while waiting for them to be delivered, prepare Reference Service Slips for the next group of boxes.  You can have a maximum of two carts of boxes at one time, with one at your cubicle in the reading room and the other waiting for you in the room behind the Circulation Desk.

14.  Depending on how many boxes are being pulled for you, your cart may arrive at the Circulation Desk any time up to an hour or more from the scheduled pull time.  Periodically check the log at the left end of the Circulation Desk to see if your cart has arrived.  If your order has arrived, the log will give the arrival time, your name, Record Group, number of boxes, and the name of the person who pulled them.  If the Circulation Desk has some problem with your request, your Research Card number will be posted on a bulletin board under the clock to the left of the Circulation Desk.

Each cart holds up to twenty-four 4″-wide boxes or nine 12″-inch wide FRC boxes.  A “shelf pull” consists of three regular boxes or one FRC box.  Each researcher is allowed two carts plus one “shelf pull”  or one cart plus five “shelf pulls.”  All boxes on a cart or in a “shelf pull” must come from the same stack area, e.g., 470 or 290.

When  the materials you order arrive from the stacks or when you return materials at the end of the day, they are automatically held for you for three days.

The following photo, courtesy of NARA, shows the stacks with the type of 4″-wide boxes used to store helper files.  Two more stack photos follow it.

2nd stack photo:

3rd stack photo:

15.  There are two desks for photocopying and scanning, the Short Term Copiers desk, in charge of the 5-minute copiers, and the Copy Center desk, in charge of the auxiliary, one-hour, and all-day copiers.  The one-hour and all-day copiers can be reserved.   Obtain from either desk  several of the long, narrow Reproduction Tab slips to identify which documents or folders you intend to copy.    Bring the entire file box and show the documents you wish to copy to the person at the desk.  If any are classified, he or she will issue you a declassification sticker to put on the glass of the copier/scanner, with a number on it that corresponds to the declassification category of the documents.  Keep that sticker for subsequent copying.  Do not leave it on the glass.  The photocopier/scanners use a pale blue paper to distinguish copies you have made  from original documents.  See the staff at the copier desk about removing staples or paper clips.  Use the supply of small non-acid slips of paper and stainless steel paper clips available at the copier desk to clip the documents back together the same way you found them.  Copier fees are 25 cents each for regular copies,  $1.35 for color.  The same fees apply when scanning.  The following photo shows the Short Term Copiers desk from the floor above.  Note the photocopiers to the right and left of it.

16.  Laminated plastic place-holder cards are provided by the Circulation Desk to help you keep files and documents in order.  Use them.  Only one box may be removed from the cart at any time.  Only one folder may be removed from a box at a time.  Documents may not be removed from folders except when they are being copied.  When copying multiple documents from folders in the same box, use the long narrow folded Reproduction Tab slips (available from the same desk where you get your declassification sticker) to identify which documents or folders you intend to copy and to make it easier to remove the documents from their respective file folders.

17.  The following are prohibited while examining documents:

  • Licking your finger tips.
  • Using rubber finger tip covers.
  • Using the eraser end of a pencil.

18.  All photocopiers have been replaced with new photocopiers that also can be used as scanners.  You can bring a flash drive to plug into the copier/scanner to capture the images.  The default image will be a text file in .pdf format.  An alternative option is an image in .tiff format. The price per copy when scanning is the same as when photocopying.  If you bring your own scanner or camera to capture images of documents, get a yellow Confirmation Slip from the same desk where you get your declassification sticker.  Post the Confirmation Slip at your cubicle.

19.  There are four 5-minute copiers at the Short Term Copiers desk.  You can use yours as long as you want unless they are all in use and there are people waiting to use them, at which point the staff person at the Short Term Copiers desk will announce that only five minutes remain.  At the Copy Center Desk (far end of the reading room), they have two auxiliary copier/scanners, four which you can reserve a for an hour at a time, and three for a whole day.  And you can take an entire cart with you rather than a single box.  The auxiliary copiers can be used without making a reservation.  The following photo shows the Copy Center Desk (and through the windows the outside seating adjacent to the cafeteria on the floor below):

20.  When I was there in May 2014, the Copy Center also had the following:

  • Optelec Clear View 500 which displays an enlarged image on its screen for the visually handicapped.
  • Minolta book scanner with an adjustable surface to accomodate the different thicknesses of each half of an open book.
  • Color photocopier
  • Bookeye 3 overhead book and map scanner which can make printed copies or save to a USB3 flash drive.  After shooting an image, you can manipulate it on the large screen.
  • Two stationary camera stands that you can reserve that are specifically designed to assist researchers who want to use their cameras to take photos of documents under controlled conditions.

Note that if equipment for scanning maps is not working, you can arrange to have them taken to the Cartographic Department on the 4th floor.

21.  If you wish to take your own papers from one research room to another in the building, they must be stamped at the Information Desk at the entrance to the Textual Research Room before leaving it.

22. At the end of the day, if you have not finished examining the documents on your cart, return it to the Circulation Desk and they will hold it for you for the next day up to a maximum of three days.

23.  On the 5th floor are  WWII photos of the US Air Force.

24.  When you are finished and want to take your photocopies with you, go to the Information Desk and have them examined.  Your materials will be locked in a locking bag, known as the “green bag,” to expedite going through security on the main floor.

25.  Your plans can be disrupted.  One time when I was at NAII they held a fire drill and the entire building had to be vacated for an hour or so.  Another time the  Textual Research Room was closed early due to the need to make plumbing repairs.  Another fire drill occurred during my visit in June 2011, with arriving cars backed up to the highway at the entrance to the NAII grounds.  And in late October 2012 I lost three days of planned research when Hurricane Sandy shut down all government offices.

26.  The cafeteria on the first floor only serves breakfast and lunch and accepts only cash.   There are two microwave ovens near the vending machines.     The cafeteria is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mon.-Fri.  Breakfast and lunch are from 7 a.m.-9:00 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., respectively.  The convenience store near the entrance to the cafeteria is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., also Monday to Friday.  In addition to snacks, it has a small assortment of food that you can heat up in their microwave.  There is some outside seating adjacent to the cafeteria which you can see through the windows in the photo following item 19 above.

27. On the fifth floor of NAII, there are copiers for copying photos and color copying.  Arrange at the Information Desk at the entrance to the Textual Research Room to have the documents taken to the fifth floor for copying.

28. There are nine motels on Baltimore Ave. a few minutes drive from Adelphi Rd. where NAII is located.  The NAII website provides a link to the University of Maryland website which lists hotels.  See

29. There is local bus service to NAII.  For further information, go to:

30. For the official word on NAII, go to their website at:

31.  There are numerous fast food businesses scattered along Baltimore Avenue where most of the motels are located.  For a better choice in food, go south on Baltimore Avenue.  A few blocks past the entrance to the University of Maryland on Baltimore you will find a cluster of restaurants and other businesses that cater to the students.  If you like a decent choice of soup and salad, try Jason’s deli at 7356 Baltimore Ave.

32.  If you have time left over before returning home, you may want to visit the College Park Aviation Museum.  See their website for details at:  And a trip to Washington, D.C. is an opportunity to visit the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the United States Holocaust Museum, and the National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport.

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