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To make the best use of your time at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), it is important to be as prepared as possible.
Know your topic well. Look at the secondary or published sources from your local library to narrow your subject and find general information about your topic. This is the most important rule before coming to an archival facility. Many times general questions can be answered more quickly by a librarian.
Primary sources are available in many places besides the National Archives. Your local librarian can help you find out where documents on your subject are. The National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC) gives the location of personal papers nationwide. Your librarian may have Archives USA, a proprietary database of archival collections which may help you locate a particular collection of records. You may find collections in other facilities that would prove to be helpful to your research.
Researchers who plan to visit NARA facilities should write or telephone before they come. Contacting NARA can allow you to establish which facility would house the needed information, as well as determine the classification status and availability of your records.
To contact NARA, e-mail us at http://www.archives.gov/contact/ .
For information about and the location of NARA’s regional facilities, visit http://www.archives.gov/facilities/ .
For more information on how to do research at NARA, see http://www.archives.gov/research/start/ .