Two Steps Every Researcher Should Take

The following appeared in an email from the National Archives on June 1, 2017:

You’ve determined your research topic and gathered information, but are you ready to visit a National Archives facility to conduct your research in person?

Before you arrive, be sure to follow these two steps to ensure success!

  1. Search the National Archives Catalog
  2. Contact National Archives staff before your visit

Search the National Archives Catalog

Use the National Archives Catalog to search for your topic and related keywords. If you’re having trouble finding relevant results, try narrowing your search with the refine options on the left side of the screen or by conducting an advanced search. If you have any questions about how to use the Catalog, please contact us at We are here to help you navigate!

Once you find records that interest you and you decide to visit a National Archives facility to view them in person, first confirm their availability by checking their Access Restriction(s) in the “Details” section of the Catalog description.

If records are listed as “Unrestricted,” you should be able to view the records in person. If records are listed as “Restricted – Possibly,” “Restricted – Partly,” or “Restricted – Fully” then you may be unable to view them in person.

If you are interested in coming to a National Archives facility to view particular records, note the National Archives Identifier (NAID) of the records. This will come in handy in the next step when you contact us.

Contact Us

Regardless of the Access Restriction(s), please contact the reference unit listed in the Catalog description under “Archived Copies.” It is very important that you contact us three or more weeks before any planned visit to give the reference staff enough time to do appropriate investigation and preparation.

Reference staff will be able to confirm the availability of records and possibly prepare them for your visit if available for research. Give them either the URL you bookmarked or the NAID you recorded. Please note, not all facilities will prepare records in advance of your visit.

Even if you don’t find anything of interest, still contact us! If you know which facility holds the records you would like to see, contact them directly (a list of locations with contact information can be found here). If you are unsure of which facility might hold records relevant to your interest, use the general contact us form. It’s possible the records you seek haven’t been described yet, or weren’t described in a way that corresponded to the keywords you entered in your search. A reference archivist will be able to help you further.

We know in person research visits often involve time and money, so we want to help ensure your visit is as successful and productive as possible.