United States Marine Corps History Division and Archives - Quantico, Virginia
by Colin Colbourn
The University of Southern Mississippi

For researchers interested in U.S. Marine Corps history, Quantico is an absolute necessity. However, for those unfamiliar with its layout and holdings, the Marine Corps base can be a daunting challenge. There are three locations necessary to visit at Quantico: the History Division, the Alfred M. Gray Research Center (GRC), and the Audio-Visual Information Repository (VIR). When the Marine Corps moved the History and Museums Division from the Washington Navy Yard to Quantico, its research locations were effectively split into three parts. The Museums division eventually became the National Museum of the Marine Corps, located just outside of MCB-Quantico. At the same time, the majority of the History Division’s archival resources moved to the A.M. Gray Research Center and Library located on base.

When beginning a research trip to Quantico, the researcher must visit both the History Division and the Archives at the A.M. Gray Research Center because, while separated, they serve as equally valuable research tools. What is now called the History Division (located at 3078 Upshur Avenue on base) includes Reference, Writing, Field History, and Oral History branches, and works in conjunction with Marine Corps University. The History Division serves as an excellent place for a researcher to begin their trip. Contact the History Division ahead of time, and set up an appointment with any of the Reference Branch historians. These historians possess a wealth of knowledge about many Marine Corps topics, and are also experts on locating any material the researcher may need as their trip continues. Some of the historians at History Division have published official Marine Corps histories, and their knowledge and expertise is essential to consult. The History Division is a researcher-friendly environment and continues to act as a bastion for the preservation and publication of the Corps’ history for both Marines and civilians.

The researcher should next visit the Alfred M. Gray Research Center’s Archives and Special Collections branch. Located on the second deck of the A.M. Gray Research Center (GRC) at 2040 Broadway Street on base, the Marine Corps archives is the main repository for personal papers, special research collections, and command chronologies of the U.S. Marine Corps. It is best for researchers (and easier on the archivists) to call a few weeks ahead of the researcher's intended arrival date and request the documents they need, which is particularly easy in the case of researching individual Marines. This will permit the archivists time to collect and prepare those documents well in advance of the arrival of the researcher. Consult the archivists if (as so often happens) the researcher wants to pursue other collections while at the Archives. The Archives have a few computer stations as well as a copy machine for research use, and they are open to the use of cameras, personal laptops, and notebooks. However, the use of flash drives is prohibited.  In order to examine audio or visual material, the researcher may be directed to the Audio-Visual Information Repository (VIR), which is next door to the GRC in Room 073 of Duncan Hall. The VIR has a massive collection of slides, video, and audio and has the ability to transfer any of these types of formats onto CD or DVD format.

For those traveling to Quantico, the hotels in and around the base have rates close to $120 a night. However, Quantico’s location, which is roughly 30 minutes from Washington, D.C. and Fredericksburg, VA, may provide cheaper accommodation options for those willing to travel. For driving purposes, Quantico is directly off I-95S. Quantico is also accessible by rail via both Amtrak and the Virginia Railway Express from Washington, D.C. and Fredericksburg, VA.

(Summer 2010)