National Archives College Park (a.k.a.: NACP or Archives II), College Park, Maryland
by Tanya Roth
Washington University in St. Louis
The College Park branch of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration is a large facility that holds millions of records related to both military and civilian government agencies. While you can find a lot of useful information here, be forewarned that using the College Park facility takes time and patience. Because of the facility size and scope of materials, it can be difficult to locate relevant materials on your own. While you may have some success identifying preliminary record groups or collections via the archives website, your best bet is to contact a staff member to discuss your research interests and your plans to visit. Allow plenty of time for this process. (Alternately, you may simply speak with a staff member the day you arrive, but keep in mind that the second floor research room has been known to be short-staffed on more than one occasion – or when not short-staffed, there are many researchers competing with you for staff members’ time and support.)
All materials at the National Archives are arranged in Record Groups. On-site finding aids also help you verify the shelf location information, which staff members need in order to retrieve your materials for the second floor manuscript room, which is the most heavily-used research area of the facility, although there are also photographic materials, maps, and other similar research rooms. Once you identify the location information for the materials you wish to see, you will complete a request form, which must be given to a staff member for approval. Records are retrieved by staff members on weekdays only at 10 am, 11 am, 1:30 pm, and 2:30 pm, with an additional pull at 3:30 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Once your request has been submitted, it takes approximately one hour for the items to arrive in the manuscript research room.
New researchers must obtain a free researcher card upon arrival; visit the first floor office to the right of the security scanner upon entry. Researchers may use cameras, laptops, external hard drives, and similar equipment. However, you must register such items with security on the first floor and present your registration slip as you enter and exit the secured research areas. All research rooms have additional policies for obtaining permission to photograph specific records; speak with staff for more details upon arrival. For twenty-five cents, you may store other items, such as backpacks, in lockers in the basement. There is an on-site cafeteria, as well as vending machines and a snack shop.
The College Park facility is located about 30 minutes or more outside of Washington, DC. While it is close to the University of Maryland-College Park, and on local bus lines, there are no lodging options in the immediate vicinity. You might consider either staying in a nearby Maryland suburban area (the further out from DC, the cheaper lodging becomes) and driving to and from the facility. Alternately, you could consider staying in a DC hostel and taking public transportation to and from the archive.
You can reach the archives via public transportation, which includes a combination of the Metrorail green line and Metrobus on weekdays. Because the local Metrobus line does not operate on Saturdays, you may also access a free researcher shuttle bus on Saturdays at the Prince George’s Plaza Metrorail station. In addition, if you stay in Washington, DC, my can also take the free staff shuttle bus from the Washington, DC, National Archive to the College Park facility on weekdays between 8pm and 5pm (departs on the hour).