2 Replies Latest reply on Mar 13, 2019 10:59 AM by Jason Atkinson

    How do I obtain a finding aid for a record group or series within a record group?


      I'm looking for photographs and film related to the Second World War. For example, I am looking for images of the early Normandy campaign. There aren't a lot of photographs available online at NARA related to this. I want to know specific images I want to look for before traveling to NARA.

        • Re: How do I obtain a finding aid for a record group or series within a record group?
          Jason Atkinson Pioneer

          Dear Mr. Butler,


          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


          The National Archives Catalog is the primary finding aid that NARA provides to assist the public in researching our records.  The pages Using the Catalog and National Archives Catalog Search Tips provide information about how to search for records using the Catalog.

          The Catalog includes record group and record series level descriptions for many of our records.  To give an example that is pertinent to your research interests, this is the listing for one of the many record groups that contains WWII related photographs: Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer (Record Group 111).  This is the listing for the record series where the bulk of those photographs would be:  Photographs of American Military Activities, ca. 1918 - ca. 1981

          Some of our series descriptions include item or file unit lists, and some of those include digitized images of the records.  In the Photographs of American Military Activities, ca. 1918 - ca. 1981, you can look under the “Details” heading and you will see “Includes: 67889 item(s) described in the catalog. You can also click on the blue button that says “Search within this series” to do a word search of the items.

          Something you should also look for in a series description is a Finding Aid Note.  Some of our series have additional finding aids such as indexes which include information which is not incorporated in the Catalog description.  In these instances, we use the Finding Aid Note to inform researchers of the existence of the finding aid. If you have questions about accessing these finding aids or anything else related to the record series, you can contact the reference unit listed in the “Contacts(s)” field under the “Archived Copies” Heading.

          In regards to where to look to find records related to World War II, there are numerous record groups that have relevant photographs.  Our page World War II Photos specifically mentions records of the Army Signal Corps in Record Group (RG) 111, the Department of the Navy in RG 80, the Coast Guard in RG 26, the Marine Corps in RG 127, and the Office of War Information in RG 208 as well as others.  Several of our presidential libraries also have relevant photographs.
          If you have any further questions about how to research World War II photographs, I would recommend contacting National Archives at College Park - Still Pictures (RDSS) via their email at stillpix@nara.gov, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library (LP-FDR) via their email at roosevelt.library@nara.gov, the Harry S. Truman Library (LP-HST) via their email at truman.reference@nara.gov, or the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library (LP-DDE) via their email at eisenhower.library@nara.gov.

          Also, the National Archives at College Park - Still Pictures (RDSS) published a book titled War & Conflict - Selected Images from the National Archives, 1765-1970, edited by Jonathan Heller that is available in digital form via the HathiTrust.


          We hope that this information is helpful. Best of luck with your research!

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          • Re: How do I obtain a finding aid for a record group or series within a record group?
            Jason Atkinson Pioneer

            As an addendum to our previous reply, if by "film" you are referring to motion picture films rather than still images, you can also find those listed in our National Archives Catalog, such as this example.  The point of contact for our motion picture holdings in our College Park location is National Archives at College Park - Motion Pictures (RDSM) which can be reached via email at mopix@nara.gov.  The previously mentioned presidential libraries may also have relevant motion picture records.  You can also find some of our relevant holdings digitized and available through our YouTube channel.

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