Have you ever wondered what happens to the unpublished records of the United States federal government? The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the organization that preserves and makes available the records of the United States Federal government slated for permanent safekeeping. If you’re new to archival research in general, take a look at their guide to getting started. To dive into finding records, try one of the below three routes:
- Archival Research Catalog (ARC): This online catalog of NARA’s nationwide holdings is 56% complete at the series level. ARC allows you to search for archival materials at NARA or browse selected topics or figures (i.e. African Americans). See the How to Search in ARC guide for instructions.
- Access to Archival Databases (AAD): AAD gives access to records in a small selection of historic databases preserved permanently in NARA. Approximately 475 data files are available, and can be searched or browsed by category. Recent highlights include Kurt Vonnegut’s WWII Prisoner of War record.
- Browse by Topic: Just curious? See some pre-selected government records into frequently-searched categories like aviation, Holocaust-era assets, or space.
Don’t forget that you can get to NARA in more locations than just the Washington, D.C. corridor. A network of regional archives and presidential libraries also serve the public with records available for research.