About The Archives

In a democracy, government records belong to the people. Since its creation in 1934, the nonpartisan National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has served as the nation’s official record keeper, safeguarding and providing public access to billions of records from all three branches of the United States government.

Records help us to claim our rights as citizens, to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions, and to document our history as a nation. By preserving our most important records, the Archives ensures that future generations of Americans will be able to explore our shared history at the home of the official Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

The National Archives was established during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but its major holdings date back to 1775. They capture the sweep of the past: slave ship manifests and the Emancipation Proclamation; captured German records and the Japanese surrender documents from World War II; journals of polar expeditions and photographs of Dust Bowl farmers; Indian treaties making transitory promises; and a richly bound document bearing the bold signature “Bonaparte”—the Louisiana Purchase Treaty that doubled the territory of the young republic.

The Archives keeps only those Federal records judged to have continuing value—about 3 percent of those generated in any given year.  All of these materials are preserved because they are important to the workings of government, have long-term research worth, or provide information of value to citizens. Today, the Archives’ collection includes 12 billion sheets of paper, 40 million photographs, miles and miles of video and film, and more than 5.3 billion electronic records. The records are housed in facilities around the country, from Anchorage, Alaska to Atlanta, Georgia— including two Washington, DC, area buildings, 14 Regional Archives, 17 Federal Records Centers, 13 Presidential libraries, and the National Personnel Records Center.

About the Archivist

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The Honorable David S. Ferriero was sworn in as 10th Archivist of the United States on November 13, 2009.

Appointed by President Barack Obama, he is  the head of the National Archives and Records Administration, and is responsible for providing guidance to the White House and the Executive Branch agencies and departments on the creation and maintenance of their records. As Archivist, Mr. Ferriero oversees the transfer to the National Archives of permanently valuable federal government records and makes them available for study.

Previously, Mr. Ferriero served as the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the New York Public Libraries (NYPL). In this position he was part of the leadership team responsible for integrating the 4 research libraries and 87 branch libraries into one seamless service for users; and was in charge of collection strategy; conservation; digital experience and strategy; reference and research services; and education, programming, and exhibitions.

Before joining the NYPL in 2004, Mr. Ferriero served in top positions at two of the nation’s major academic libraries, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA, and Duke University in Durham, NC.

Mr. Ferriero earned bachelors and master’s degrees in English literature from Northeastern University in Boston and a master’s degree from the Simmons College of Library and Information Science, also in Boston. He served as a hospital corpsman in the Navy during the Vietnam War.

Check out his blog!