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 Acting Archivist

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Debra Steidel Wall became Acting Archivist of the United States in May 2022 upon the retirement of 10th Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. She was appointed as Deputy Archivist of the United States in July 2011 and previously served as the agency’s Chief of Staff (2008–2011) and in a variety of management positions relating to bringing NARA’s archival holdings to the public online. She joined the National Archives in 1991 as an archivist trainee with a specialty in film, and holds an undergraduate degree in history and government from Georgetown University, and a graduate degree in film from the American University.