National Archives logo
|Formed||June 19, 1934|
(Independent Agency April 1, 1985)
|Jurisdiction||U.S. Federal Government|
|Headquarters||National Archives Building|
700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Annual budget||$391 million (FY 2012)|
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is an independent agency of the United States government charged with the preservation and documentation of government and historical records. It is also tasked with increasing public access to those documents which make up the National Archive. NARA is officially responsible for maintaining and publishing the legally authentic and authoritative copies of acts of Congress, presidential directives, and federal regulations. NARA also transmits votes of the Electoral College to Congress.
The Archivist of the United States is the chief official overseeing the operation of the National Archives and Records Administration. The Archivist not only maintains the official documentation of the passage of amendments to the U.S. Constitution by state legislatures, but has the authority to declare when the constitutional threshold for passage has been reached, and therefore when an act has become an amendment.
The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)—the agency's grant-making arm—awards funds to state and local governments, public and private archives, colleges and universities, and other nonprofit organizations to preserve and publish historical records. Since 1964, the NHPRC has awarded some 4,500 grants.
The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) is a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) resource for the public and the government. Congress has charged NARA with reviewing FOIA policies, procedures and compliance of Federal agencies and to recommend changes to FOIA. NARA's mission also includes resolving FOIA disputes between Federal agencies and requesters.
Originally, each branch and agency of the U.S. government was responsible for maintaining its own documents, which often resulted in the loss and destruction of records. Congress created the National Archives Establishment in 1934 to centralize federal record keeping, with the Archivist of the United States serving as chief administrator. R.D.W. Connor was chosen to be the first leader of the organization.
After a recommendation by the first Hoover Commission in 1949 the National Archives was placed within the newly formed General Services Administration (GSA). NARA was officially given its independence from the GSA with the passing of the Records Administration Act of 1984, thus giving birth to the institution we have today.
In December of 1978 millions of feet of news reels were destroyed in a fire at an offsite location in Suitland, Maryland. The reels, made of exceptionally flammable nitrate material, had been donated previously by Universal Pictures and were stored in special vaults to protect against fires. In total over 12.6 million feet of film was destroyed.
In March 2006, it was revealed by the Archivist of the United States in a public hearing that a memorandum of understanding between NARA and various government agencies existed to "reclassify", i.e., withdraw from public access, certain documents in the name of national security, and to do so in a manner such that researchers would not be likely to discover the process (the U.S. reclassification program). An audit indicated that more than one third withdrawn since 1999 did not contain sensitive information. The program was originally scheduled to end in 2007.
In 2010, Executive Order 13526 created the National Declassification Center to coordinate declassification practices across agencies, provide secure document services to other agencies, and review records in NARA custody for declassification.
The National Archives found itself under public scrutiny when it initially agreed, in 2017, to requests from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) to allow certain documents be scheduled for destruction.
NARA's holdings are classed into "record groups" reflecting the governmental department or agency from which they originated. Records include paper documents, microfilm, still pictures, motion pictures, and electronic media.
Archival descriptions of the permanent holdings of the federal government in the custody of NARA are stored in the National Archives Catalog. The archival descriptions include information on traditional paper holdings, electronic records, and artifacts. As of December 2012, the catalog consisted of about 10 billion logical data records describing 527,000 artifacts and encompassing 81% of NARA's records. There are also 922,000 digital copies of already digitized materials.
Most records at NARA are in the public domain, as works of the federal government are excluded from copyright protection. However, records from other sources may still be protected by copyright or donor agreements. Executive Order 13526 directs originating agencies to declassify documents if possible before shipment to NARA for long-term storage, but NARA also stores some classified documents until they can be declassified. Its Information Security Oversight Office monitors and sets policy for the U.S. government's security classification system.
Archival Recovery Teams
Facilities and exhibition spaces
The most well known facility of the National Archives and Records Administration is the National Archives Building (informally known as "Archives I"), located north of the National Mall on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C.. A sister facility, known as the National Archives at College Park ("Archives II") was opened 1994 near the University of Maryland, College Park. The Washington National Records Center (WNRC), also located in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, is a large warehouse facility where federal records that are still under the control of the creating agency are stored. Federal government agencies pay a yearly fee for storage at the facility. In accordance with federal records schedules, documents at WNRC are transferred to the legal custody of the National Archives after a certain time; this usually involves a relocation of the records to College Park. Temporary records at WNRC are either retained for a fee or destroyed after retention times have elapsed. WNRC also offers research services and maintains a small research room.
Across the United States, the National Archives maintains both research facilities and additional federal records centers (FRCs). In many cases, the research rooms of regional archives are located at the same site as the federal records center, which are inaccessible to the public.
In April of 2019 an unknown person set fire to an exterior wall of the archives building using a homemade incendiary device before firefighters were able to extinguish the flames.
In an effort to make its holdings more widely available and more easily accessible, the National Archives began entering into public–private partnerships in 2006. A joint venture with Google will digitize and offer NARA video online. When announcing the agreement, Archivist Allen Weinstein said that this pilot program is
... an important step for the National Archives to achieve its goal of becoming an archive without walls. Our new strategic plan emphasizes the importance of providing access to records anytime, anywhere. This is one of many initiatives that we are launching to make our goal a reality. For the first time, the public will be able to view this collection of rare and unusual films on the Internet.
On January 10, 2007, the National Archives and Fold3.com (formerly Footnote) launched a pilot project to digitize historic documents from the National Archives holdings. Allen Weinstein explained that this partnership would "allow much greater access to approximately 4.5 million pages of important documents that are currently available only in their original format or on microfilm" and "would also enhance NARA's efforts to preserve its original records."
In July 2007, the National Archives announced it would make copies of its collection of Universal Newsreels from 1929 to 1967 available for purchase through CreateSpace, an Amazon.com subsidiary. During the announcement, Weinstein noted that the agreement would "... reap major benefits for the public-at-large and for the National Archives." Adding, "While the public can come to our College Park, Maryland, research room to view films and even copy them at no charge, this new program will make our holdings much more accessible to millions of people who cannot travel to the Washington, D.C. area." The agreement also calls for CreateSpace partnership to provide the National Archives with digital reference and preservation copies of the films as part of NARA's preservation program.
In May 2008, the National Archives announced a five-year agreement to digitize selected records including the complete U.S. Federal Census Collection, 1790–1930, passenger lists from 1820 to 1960 and World War I and World War II draft registration cards. The partnership agreement allows for exclusive use of the digitized records by Ancestry.com for a 5-year embargo period whereupon the digital records will be turned over to the National Archives.
On June 18, 2009, the National Archives announced the launching of a YouTube channel "to showcase popular archived films, inform the public about upcoming events around the country, and bring National Archives exhibits to the people." Also in 2009, the National Archives launched a Flickr photostream to share portions of its photographic holdings with the general public. A new teaching-with-documents Web site premiered in 2010 and was developed by the education team. The site features 3,000 documents, images, and recordings from the holdings of the Archives. It also features lesson plans and tools for creating new classroom activities and lessons.
In 2011, the National Archives initiated a WikiProject on the English Wikipedia to expand collaboration in making its holdings widely available through Wikimedia.
- In 1963, Robert Bradford Murphy and his wife, Elizabeth Irene Murphy were arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison for stealing documents from several federal depositories, including the National Archives.
- In 1987, Charles Merrill Mount was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for stealing 400 documents from the National Archives.
- In 2002, Shawn Aubitz pleaded guilty to stealing dozens of documents and photographs from the National Archives during the 90's.
- In 2005, Sandy Berger was charged with an unauthorized removal of documents from the National Archives; sentenced to 100 hours of community service and fined $50,000.
- In 2005, Howard Harner was sentenced to two years in prison and fined $10,000 after stealing 100 documents from the National Archives.
- In 2006, Denning McTague was sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $3,000 after stealing 164 documents from the National Archives.
- In 2011, Leslie Waffen was sentenced to 18 months in prison after stealing 955 recordings from the National Archives.
- In 2011, Thomas Lowry was permanently banned from the National Archives after he confessed to altering the date on a presidential pardon signed by Abraham Lincoln.
- In 2011, Barry Landau and Jason Savedoff were arrested and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for stealing ten thousand documents from the National Archives.
- In 2018, Antonin DeHays was arrested for multiple thefts of military artifacts and records from the National Archive during the mid to late 2010s.
- 1973 National Archives Fire
- Digital preservation
- Electronic Records Archives
- List of national archives
- List of U.S. state libraries and archives
- National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program
- National Digital Library Program (NDLP)
- National Security Archive
- U.S. Constitution
- White House Millennium Council (time capsule)
- "Archival Milestones". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- "U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Fiscal Year 2014–2018 Strategic Plan" (PDF). National Archives. March 2014. p. 18. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
- Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request
- "David Ferriero Confirmed by U.S. Senate as 10th Archivist of the United States" (Press release). National Archives and Records Administration. November 6, 2008. Retrieved November 10, 2009.
- "Meet our Senior Staff". archives.gov. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved August 23, 2011.
- Mengel, David (May 2007). "Access to United States Government Records at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration" (PDF). Society of American Archivists.
- "Elections and the Electoral College". National Archives. March 15, 2017. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
- Quigley, Sarah (2007). "Cultural Record Keepers". Libraries & the Cultural Record. 42: 81. doi:10.1353/lac.2007.0017.
- Bradsher, G (2015). "National Archives Independence 30 Years Ago". Federalist (Society for History in the Federal Government). 45: 4–5 – via EBSCOHost.
- Daley, Jason. "Forty Years Ago, 12.6 Million Feet of History Went Up in Smoke". Smithsonian. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
- "Secret Agreement Reveals Covert Program to Hide Reclassification from Public". National Security Archive. April 11, 2006. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- Scott Shane (April 27, 2006). "National Archives Says Records Were Wrongly Classified".
- "National Archives and Declassification". Archives.gov. October 19, 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
- Peet, Lisa. "NARA Responds to Controversial ICE Records Destruction Request". The Library Journal. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
- NARA. "The National Archives Catalog". Retrieved May 6, 2016.
- NARA. "Open Government at the National Archives". Retrieved December 13, 2012.
- NARA. "About Archival Research Catalog (ARC)". Retrieved December 13, 2012.
- "Copyright, Permissions and Restrictions Notice". archives.gov. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- Section 3.2 (d)
- Faye Fiore (August 8, 2010). "Guardians of the nation's attic". Los Angeles Times.
- Katz, Brigit. "Authorities Are Looking for the Suspect Who Started a Fire at the National Archives". Smithsonian. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
- "National Archives and Google Launch Pilot Project to Digitize and Offer Historic Films Online" (Press release). archives.gov. February 24, 2006. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- "footnote.com". footnote.com. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
- "National Archives and Footnote Launch Project to Digitize Historic Documents" (Press release). archives.gov. January 10, 2007. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- "Thousands of National Archives Films to Be Made Available Through CustomFlix Labs" (Press release). archives.gov. July 27, 2007. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- "National Archives Announces Digitizing Agreement with The Generations Network" (Press release). archives.gov. May 20, 2008. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
- "NARA The Generations Network Digitization Agreement" (PDF). archives.gov.
- "National Archives Launches YouTube Channel" (Press release). archives.gov. June 18, 2009. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- "National Archives Photos on Flickr: FAQs". Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- United States of America, Plaintiff-appellee, v. Robert Bradford Murphy, A/k/a Samuel George Matz, and Elizabeth Irene Murphy, aka Elizabeth Irene Matz, Defendants and Appellants, 413 F.2d 1129 (6th Cir. 1969)
- Churchville, V., & Saperstein, S. (1987, August 16). "THE FALL FROM GRACE OF AN ARTIST, AUTHOR". The Washington Post.
- "Man Admits Theft From U.S. Archives". Los Angeles Times. March 14, 2002. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
- Carol D. Leonnig. Archives Thief Gets Two Years, The Washington Post, May 27, 2005.
- Eve Conant. "To Catch a Thief at the National Archives", Newsweek, May 4, 2007.
- Erica W. Morrison. "Leslie Waffen, ex-Archives worker, sentenced for stealing, selling recordings", The Washington Post, May 3, 2012
- "National Archives Discovers Date Change on Lincoln Record", NARA Press Release
- Barry Landau Sentenced to 7 Years for Thefts From National Archives, Other Institutions, NARA Press Release
- "Notable Thefts From The National Archives", The National Archives Official Website (Archived)
- Panzino, Charlsy (January 12, 2018). "Historian pleads guilty to stealing dog tags, military records from National Archives". Army Times. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Archives and Records Administration.
- Beschloss, Michael (2006). Our Documents: 100 Milestone Documents from the National Archives. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-530959-1. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
- "Sixty-Ton Statue Is Carved from a Single Slab of Stone". Popular Mechanics. 64 (2): 256. August 1935. The statue Gladiator commissioned for the main national archive building in Washington, D.C. in 1935.
- "Ten-Ton Door Made of Bronze is Thirty Five Feet High". Popular Mechanics. 62 (4): 519. October 1934.
- Official NARA−National Archives and Records Administration website
- Federal Register.gov: National Archives and Records Administration
- The National Archives Catalog—of the National Archives and Records Administration
- Outdoor sculptures at the National Archives Building
- Footnote.com: NARA
- FamilySearch.org: NARA−National Archives and Records Administration—research Wiki for genealogists
- National Archives and Records Administration's Our Archives wiki—information about NARA + its archived records
- "Things to Do in D.C.—National Archives and Library of Congress"—Roaminghistorian.com on visiting the National Archives