World War Two envelope with drawing in color of an Army officer shoveling. Visible is the stamp and postmark, 1944.

The Archives Center staff has limited capacity to provide services for patrons who cannot visit Washington, D.C.  For information about obtaining responses to specific inquiries contact the Archives Center. Information about duplications and use permissions can be found here: Rights and Reproductions.


Visit the Archives Center

Reference services are available in the reading room on the first floor of the National Museum of American History. Researchers must make appointments at least three weeks in advance of planned visits. We also strongly urge all researchers to contact the Archives Center to discuss their research needs prior to scheduling an appointment and visiting so that we can ensure space and collections availability. We recommend that you make travel arrangements after you have scheduled an appointment. 

Archives Center Reading Room, National Museum of American History

Tuesday-Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Closed federal holidays

Scheduling Appointments:

  • Appointments are required.
  • Appointments must be scheduled at least three weeks in advance and requests must include the name of the collection and box numbers to be consulted   
  • To request an appointment send an email to Please be as specific as possible about your research topic and/or the collections you hope to use.
  • To learn about the collections search the Smithsonian's Collections Search Center or Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives before contacting the Archives Center.

Research at the Archives Center Reading Room, National Museum of American History (Tuesday-Thursday)

Street Address:
Archives Center
National Museum of American History
Constitution Avenue, N.W.
between 12th and 14th Streets
Washington, D.C. 20560-0601

Phone: 202-633-3270

The Archives Center is located in a public area of the first floor of the west wing of the National Museum of American History. Researchers should use the entrances on Constitution Avenue or the Mall. Security clearances and staff escorts are not necessary.

Before You Come

Confirm the Archives Center has the materials you need:

  • Search the Collections Search Center and SOVA (Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives). SOVA provides integrated access to descriptions and detailed inventories of thousands of primary resource collections maintained by archival units across the Smithsonian.
  • Researchers are encouraged to conduct a  search prior to contacting the Archives Center for additional information about the collections or to schedule an appointment.
  • Send an email to or call (202-633-3270) to consult with an archivist and to make an appointment. Email is preferred.
  • Make separate arrangements with the curatorial staff to do research in the Museum's artifact collections.

Getting Started

  • Complete the Archives Center registration form and email the completed form to the Archives Center at or bring it with you on the first day of your appointment. 
  • First-time researchers must view a four-minute orientation powerpoint (with sound) when they arrive at the Archives Center or Play it now » (74 MB file).
  • Laptops and cameras are allowed in the reading room.
  • Folders and notebooks may not be taken into the reading room. Pencils and paper for note taking are provided.
  • Consult with the reference archivist if you need to bring notes into the reading room.

Conducting Research

  • To request materials complete the container form provided.
  • Consult with the reference archivist if you find fragile, torn or damaged documents.
  • Photocopying is self-serve using the copiers in the reference room. Copies cost $.50/page (Ten free pages each fiscal year).
  • Personal scanners are not allowed. The reading room staff can provide information on how to obtain scans.
  • Inform the reference archivist if you need to leave the reading room for any reason.

Before You Leave for the Day

  • Pay the reference archivist for your photocopies; receipts are provided. The Archives Center accepts cash, checks, and credit cards.
  • Turn in your container form and check out with the reference archivist.