Researchers often have questions about various aspects of conducting research at the National Archives particularly those rules regarding the circulation of our records. Researchers may check out records to themselves for up to 30 business days with the stipulation that they must have looked at the records in the last 3 business days otherwise the records will be “purged” which means that the records will be returned to the stacks so that other researchers can have access to them. For instance, some of our records are highly requested on a daily basis such as World War II Operations Reports (RG 407) and Navy Deck Logs (RG 24).  If necessary, please ask a staff member at the Circulation Desk to place a complimentary 5 day hold on records in case you are unable to return to the National Archives within the 3 day period to prevent those records from being purged.

                Next, let’s discuss the total amount of items researchers may have checked out to themselves at any one given time. Researchers may have up to 2 cart pulls and 1 shelf pull or 1 cart and 5 shelf pulls checked out to them before they must return (refile) something before being allowed to request more materials. However, the definition a cart or shelf pull may change depending on the type of material that is requested. First, any number of standard archival boxes over the amount of 3 and up to a maximum of 24 may fit on a single cart (See Figure 1). Some of our records have yet to be fully processed so they might be in what we call “FRCs” or Federal Records Center boxes which are larger in nature and only about 9 of this type of box can fit on a cart (See Figure 2). The last common example is with volumes, the most common example is those from consular and diplomatic posts from Record Group 84. Since these volumes tend to be on the smaller side, we can usually fit about 10 of these of a cart. The definition of a shelf pull is 1 FRC, 3 standard archival boxes, or 3 volumes.

                If there is ever a problem processing any pulls for records, the NARA staff will communicate the particular issue either with a blue slip or a yellow slip. A blue slip is given to a researcher when there is an issue before a pull is processed. For example, a researcher has too much material checked out or all of their slips for a given pull time do not have the same record group and stack location on them. However, a researcher may receive a yellow slip which means that there was an issue after a pull has been taken by staff member and they are unable to retrieve your records; some common examples include items are checked out to another researcher, the cart was full, the records are available on microfilm, or you must submit a FOIA request.



(Figure 1 Sample cart @ Archives 2)


(Figure 2 Sample cart @ Archives 2)


Disclaimer: These circulation rules are only intended for textual research only at Archives 1 (Washington, DC) ad Archives 2 (College Park, MD).

Smaller carts are used at Archives 1, therefore, box count may vary from Archives 2.