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Researchers Help

2 Posts authored by: cherkea Expert

We need your help digitizing the records of the National Archives!

At the National Archives Building, in Washington, DC, the public can scan our archival records in the Innovation Hub Scanning Room. Currently, the Scanning Room services are only available at our Washington, DC facility and only for records that are located within the building. 



The Innovation Hub Scanning Room, which opened in July 2015, provides a space for the public to scan select records in our holdings. Whether you are new to scanning or have years of experience, our staff provides one-on-one instruction on handling historical records and using our flatbed scanners. When you finish scanning your records in the Hub, you receive digital copies of your scans, free of charge. We encourage you to bring your own personal USB/flash drive to save the images. Your scans will be uploaded into the National Archives Catalog, where anyone can view them without going through a paywall.



Currently, you can scan four series of records in the Hub: compiled military service records, pension application files, bounty land warrant applications, and carded medical records. You can only scan these files if they are not already online through one of the National Archives’ partners, such as Ancestry or Fold3. If you decide to scan, we ask that you commit to scanning a complete file. Compiled military service records, bounty land warrant applications, and carded medical records are fairly small and can take between 30 minutes and an hour to complete. Pension files can include hundreds of pages and take anywhere from an hour to several days to finish.

While you are waiting for your records to arrive in the Hub, or if you are just visiting and would like to contribute to our digitization efforts, we have a “Box of the Month” available for you to scan. Currently, we are scanning compiled military service records from the War of 1812.

If you would like to scan other series of records, you will need advance approval to ensure that these records are in good condition for scanning on flatbed scanners. Contact to learn more.



We will give you credit by name for your image contributions in the National Archives Catalog, or you can choose to remain anonymous. You can view the records that have already been scanned in the Hub by visiting our Catalog, at

Once your records are available on our catalog, you can register to become a Citizen Archivist and tag and transcribe your scans. More information about this project can be found at our Citizen Archivist Dashboard.



We hope you will come visit us at the Innovation Hub Scanning Room soon!

The Innovation Hub Scanning Room is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

One of the primary motivations that govern the National Archives is the preservation of our government’s records.  While our mission is to provide public access to government records, NARA staff are also tasked with protecting our holdings.  A visit to our research rooms reveals the energy we expend on undertaking these two contradictory responsibilities. Because improper handling of records can cause irreversible damage, researchers are our most important allies when it comes to preserving our Nation's history.


Here are the top 10 DO’s and DON'Ts for Records Handling:

  1. DO hold records with two hands to protect the documents and keep them from breaking.
  2. DON’T write on records or on top of records.
  3. DO cover records and close boxes that are not in use to prevent light damage.
  4. DON’T lean or put any objects on top of records, with the exception of NARA approved paperweights.
  5. DO maintain the original order of folders and papers so that the next researcher finds them in the same order you did.
  6. DON’T remove staples - ask a NARA employee who has the appropriate tools to do it for you.
  7. DO wear gloves when handling photographs to protect them from fingerprints. 
  8. DO use light finger pressure to gently flatten folded records. Flexing paper back and forth along creases may cause breaks and tears.


  1. DO use a pillow to support the spines of a book or ledger and use weights to keep pages open, if needed. NEVER force volumes open as this may damage bindings and fracture book spines. 


  1. DON’T remove documents from clear polyester sleeves, which protect the documents.


While reviewing records, if you notice something out of the ordinary, such as the boxes and folders falling apart, the contents of the box not matching the exterior label, papers ripped, etc., we have special Holdings Maintenance forms available in the research rooms for researchers to fill out so that these records receive the conservation attention that they need.  More information on our Holdings Maintenance policies can be found on our website’s Preservation webpage.


Please remember that our records are for everyone and YOU are the key to their continued preservation. 


Finally, if you need something, please ask for help. We are here for you!