|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 National Archives, and its publicly exhibited Charters of Freedom which include the original United States Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, United States Bill of Rights, and many other historical documents, is headquartered in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C.
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 Office of the Federal Register publishes the Federal Register , Code of Federal Regulations , and United States Statutes at Large , among others. It also administers the Electoral College.
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 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 Centerto 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.
Many of NARA's most requested records are frequently used for genealogy research. This includes census records from 1790 to 1940, ships' passenger lists, and naturalization records.
Archival Recovery Teams investigate the theft of records.
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 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.
The National Archives currently utilizes social media and Web 2.0 technologies in an attempt to communicate better with the public.
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 January 2020, a Washington Post reporter noticed blurred protest signs in a 2017 Women's March image at the Archives' public exhibit. Some of the signs contained potentially offensive language, some mentioned the president. Besides censoring language, the edits changed the meaning of some protest signs. The agency defended the edits were made “so as not to engage in current political controversy” but admitted it "made a mistake… we were wrong to alter the image."
Freedom of information in the United States results from freedom of information legislation at the federal level and in the fifty states.
An archive is an accumulation of historical records or the physical place they are located. Archives contain primary source documents that have accumulated over the course of an individual or organization's lifetime, and are kept to show the function of that person or organization. Professional archivists and historians generally understand archives to be records that have been naturally and necessarily generated as a product of regular legal, commercial, administrative, or social activities. They have been metaphorically defined as "the secretions of an organism", and are distinguished from documents that have been consciously written or created to communicate a particular message to posterity.
In the United States, the presidential library system is a nationwide network of 13 libraries administered by the Office of Presidential Libraries, which is part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). These are repositories for preserving and making available the papers, records, collections and other historical materials of every president of the United States from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush. In addition to the library services, museum exhibitions concerning the presidency are displayed.
The National Security Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-governmental, non-profit research and archival institution located on the campus of the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1985 to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive is an investigative journalism center, open government advocate, international affairs research institute, and is the largest repository of declassified U.S. documents outside the federal government. The National Security Archive has spurred the declassification of more than 10 million pages of government documents by being the leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), filing a total of more than 50,000 FOIA and declassification requests in its over 30 years of history.
The Archivist of the United States is the official overseeing the operation of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The first Archivist, R.D.W. Connor, began serving in 1934, when the National Archives was established as an independent federal agency by Congress. The Archivists served as subordinate officials of the General Services Administration from 1949 until the National Archives and Records Administration became an independent agency again on April 1, 1985. The position is held by David Ferriero, who was named to the office in 2009.
The Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group is a United States government interagency group, which is tasked with locating, identifying, inventorying, and recommending for declassification classified U.S. records relating to Nazi German and Imperial Japanese war crimes.
Public records are documents or pieces of information that are not considered confidential and generally pertain to the conduct of government.
The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) is responsible to the President for policy and oversight of the government-wide security classification system and the National Industrial Security Program in the United States. The ISOO is a component of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and receives policy and program guidance from the National Security Council (NSC).
The United States government classification system is established under Executive Order 13526, the latest in a long series of executive orders on the topic. Issued by President Barack Obama in 2009, Executive Order 13526 replaced earlier executive orders on the topic and modified the regulations codified to 32 C.F.R. 2001. It lays out the system of classification, declassification, and handling of national security information generated by the U.S. government and its employees and contractors, as well as information received from other governments.
Robert Wolfe was a World War II U.S. Army officer, historian, and retired senior archivist of the US National Archives. He was wounded in both the Pacific and European Theaters of Operation. He commanded a recon team and also an anti-landmine platoon. He was a subject matter expert on captured Nazi war documents. Wolfe worked for 34 years at the Archives, functioning as its senior specialist for captured German and related records.
The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, or the JFK Records Act, is a public law passed by the United States Congress, effective October 26, 1992. It directed the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to establish a collection of records to be known as the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection. It stated that the collection shall consist of copies of all U.S. government records relating to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and that they are to be housed in the NARA Archives II building in College Park, Maryland. The collection also included any materials created or made available for use by, obtained by, or otherwise came into the possession of any state or local law enforcement office that provided support or assistance or performed work in connection with a federal inquiry into the assassination.
The Richard Nixon Foundation is a not-for-profit organization based at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California. It was founded in August 1983 by Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States, and served as the governing body of the Nixon Library for nearly twenty years. Today it operates the Nixon Library in conjunction with the National Archives and Records Administration, which is an entity of the federal government of the United States, in addition to undertaking charitable and education-based activities.
Archival research is a type of research which involves seeking out and extracting evidence from archival records. These records may be held either in collecting institutions, such as libraries and museums, or in the custody of the organization that originally generated or accumulated them, or in that of a successor body. Archival research can be contrasted with (1) secondary research, which involves identifying and consulting secondary sources relating to the topic of enquiry; and (2) with other types of primary research and empirical investigation such as fieldwork and experiment.
Theodore Roosevelt Schellenberg was an American archivist and archival theorist. Schellenberg's publications and ideas are part of the foundation for archival theory and practice in the United States. In particular, Schellenberg is known for pioneering American archival ideas about appraisal.
The bill H.R. 3786 is legislation that would allow the federal government to sell nine acres of land and the building on it to the city of Anchorage, Alaska. The land is currently owned and used by the National Archives and Records Administration to store "ongoing federal records and Alaska records dating back to its purchase in 1867."
The Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014 is a United States federal statute which amended the Presidential Records Act and Federal Records Act. Introduced as H.R. 1233, it was signed into law by President Barack Obama on November 26, 2014.
The Washington National Records Center (WNRC) in Suitland, Maryland, stores and references records of U.S. Federal agencies located in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
The Federal Records Act of 1950 is a United States federal law that was enacted in 1950. It provides the legal framework for federal records management, including record creation, maintenance, and disposition.
In the United States, the National Archives facilities are facilities and buildings housing the research and agency services of the country's National Archives and Records Administration. Within the organization of the National Archives, the upkeep of its facilities falls under the National Archives Facilities and Property Management Office.
The organization of the National Archives and Records Administration refers to the administrative and bureaucratic structure of the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States. The National Archives is considered an independent federal government agency, receiving this status in 1985 after existing under the General Services Administration since the National Archives' founding in 1934.
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