national archives building

The National Archives Building was considered the most bomb-resistant building in Washington during the Second World War. After the Pear lHarbor attack on December 7, thousands of cubic feet of records–including the Bill of Rights, constitutional amendments, treaties, and public laws–were moved deeper within the building. Staff also built special boxes in case these valuable documents needed to be evacuated. 

Read more in our special Pieces of History blog post.


At the National Archives, we celebrate Independence Day with music, game, stories, special guests, and a live reading of the Declaration of Independence on the front steps of the National Archives Building!

Thank you to the staff and volunteers who make #ArchivesJuly4 a success and many thanks to the National Archives Foundation for their support!

Photos by Jeff Reed and Brogan Jackson for the National Archives

We’re #thankful to be the home of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill Of Rights. 

And we are thankful that 363 days a year (we’re closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day), visitors can come to the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, and see these founding documents on display.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 

Photo: Naturalization ceremony in the Rotunda, September 2015. Photo by staff photographer Jeffrey Reed.


Hanging in the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance lobby of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, is a small plaque with the names of four men:

Ralph Leroy Dewsnup, Charles Edward Lewis, Julius Mayers and Augustus Julius Siko.

These National Archives employees died serving the United States during World War II.

In 1946 the National Archives created the plaque to honor these men and their service to our country.

The plaque’s dedication ceremony took place on January 29, 1947, in the Pennsylvania Avenue lobby, although now the plaque is displayed on a different wall than where it was originally unveiled.

The ceremony, attended by more than 100 National Archives employees, began with an invocation. Two National Archives staff members then performed a rendition of Kipling’s “Recessional.”

Following the unveiling, Archivist Solon J. Buck noted that while the National Archives staff was small in size, they had a larger percentage of staff who served in World War II than any other Federal agency.

Read more on the Prologue blog:

Image: Performance of “Taps” at War Memorial Plaque Dedication, January 29, 1947. (Records of the National Archives)

The Nixon Tapes

President Richard Nixon captured every word spoken in key locations in the White House and Camp David from 1971 to 1973 on a voice-activated taping system. Historian and author Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter have transcribed the tapes, giving us an unprecedented account of one of the most controversial Presidencies in U.S. history. A book signing follows the program.

President Nixon’s resignation letter and President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery from August 8 to 11.

Friday, August 8 at noon in the William McGowan Theater (enter the National Archives Building through the Special Events entrance at Seventh Street and Constitution).

Image: Richard M. Nixon press conference releasing the transcripts of the White House tapes., 04/29/1974. National Archives Identifier: 194576.

The National Archives Museum’s “Featured Documents” exhibit is made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives through the generous support of Toyota.

John Adams wanted us to celebrate on July 2. So why do we celebrate Independence Day on July 4?

After all, on July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress ended its debate and approved the resolution proposed on June 7 by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and seconded by Adams.

July 2 seems like the logical day to celebrate. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Adams had been appointed to the Committee of Five to write a document—a declaration—that told the world why the colonies cut ties with Britain. Thomas Jefferson had been working on a draft, which he gave to Adams and Benjamin Franklin for their review. Then he incorporated their changes into the draft, and submitted that draft to Congress.  

The delegates debated it, took out passages critical of the English people and of slavery, and adopted it on July 4.

The Declaration of Independence was not signed by any of the delegates until early August, after being engrossed on parchment by Timothy Matlack, a Philadelphia beer bottler who had fine penmanship. Most delegates gathered to sign the parchment copy on August 10, but a few others  signed it later. Eventually, 56 delegates would put their names on it.

This is the copy that is on permanent display in the National Archives Building in downtown Washington, DC.Come and see it on July 4!

Bob Drury and Tom Clavin tell the story of the nation’s most powerful Indian warrior on Thursday, February 6, at noon.

Sioux warrior-statesman Red Cloud is the only American Indian in history to defeat the United States Army in a war. At the peak of Red Cloud’s powers, the Sioux could claim control of one-fifth of the contiguous United States and the loyalty of thousands of fighters. But the fog of history has left Red Cloud obscured until the rediscovery of a lost autobiography and painstaking research by Drury and Clavin.

Watch live online ( or join in person (enter the National Archives Building through the Special Events entrance at Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue).


Today’s theme is #architecture  for #MuseumWeek. The National Archives Building was completed in 1937–but it was a challenging building to design! It was more than an office space for workers; it would store the most valuable records of the government.

This called for installation of specialized air-handling systems and filters, reinforced flooring, and thousands of feet of shelving to meet the building’s archival storage requirements.

New York architect John Russell Pope was chosen to design the new building. He suggested moving the planned location (it had already be relocated twice) to the block it is now built on. This meant demolishing Center Market, which had been erected in 1871 and held approximately 700 vendors. Excavation for the new building began on 1931.

The builders needed to protect the foundation from possible flooding from the Old Tiber Creek bed, which runs under the National Archives Building. Contractors drove 8,575 piles into the unstable soil before constructing a huge concrete bowl as a foundation.

On February 20, 1933, departing President Herbert Hoover laid the cornerstone of the building. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation on June 19, 1934, creating the National Archives as an independent agency, and 120 National Archives staff members moved into the uncompleted building on November 5, 1935,

Almost as soon as Pope’s original design was complete, a project to fill the Archives’ interior courtyard began, doubling storage space from 374,000 square feet to more than 757,000 square feet!

In 1937 the National Archives Building was complete.

Three inscriptions encircle the building. The south side reads:
“The ties that bind the lives of our people in one indissoluble union are perpetuated in the archives of our government and to their custody this building is dedicated.”

Read more about the history of the building on


The Emancipation Proclamation will be on display for just three days this month: February 15, 16, and 17.

Due to its fragile condition, it can only be displayed for a limited time each year. The document will be on display in the new David M. Rubenstein Gallery in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

You can read the transcription, or download “The Meaning and Making of Emancipation,” a free eBook created by the National Archives for your iPad, iPhone, Nook, or other electronic device.

How would you celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the National Archives?  Build a Lego National Archives?

We stumbled* across this miniature National Archives Building during a recent visit to Legoland. It’s impressively detailed, down to the eagles along the cornice and the statues of Heritage and Guardianship on the Constitution Avenue side.  (Don’t miss the real statues up close, circa 1940).
(*We didn’t stumble on them literally of course - everyone knows how much they hurt!)

We have to wonder, what other models of the National Archives building are out there?

Join us for the third episode, Our Language, of Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns. As the stock market soars to record heights, jazz is played in dance halls and speakeasies everywhere. For the first time, improvising soloists and singers take center stage. (120 minutes.)

Enter the National Archives Building through the Special Events entrance at Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue).

Jazz at the National Archives is made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives through the generous support of Natixis Global Asset Management.

Image:  WPA: Federal Music Project:Macbeth, ca. 1936 National Archives Identifier 195663. 

Sally Ride made history and inspired several generations of women when NASA chose her for the seventh shuttle mission. Lynn Sherr discusses the life of this fascinating woman whose life intersected with revolutionary social and scientific changes in America. A book signing will follow the program.

Join us on Wednesday, June 25 at noon. in the William McGowan Theater. Watch live online ( or join us in person (enter the National Archives Building through the Special Events entrance at Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue).

“Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures” is made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives with the generous support of Lead Sponsor AT&T. Major additional support provided by the Lawrence F. O’Brien Family and members of the Board of the Foundation for the National Archives.

Family and educational programming related to “Making Their Mark”is sponsored in part by Fahrney’s Pens, Cross, and Parker Pen Company - Newell Rubbermaid.

Exciting news this morning! William Howard Taft was so inspired by his visit to the National Archives that he decided to become an archivist, abandoning his career as a baseball mascot for the Washington Nationals.

“Running the bases just can’t compare to the excitement of opening a Hollinger box,” he said. “It’s an amazing opportunity that I can’t pass up.”

The former President and Supreme Court justice will be working in the Research Room at the National Archives Building where the ceilings are high enough to accommodate his oversized head.


Making Room for Those in Danger

At the end of the Vietnam War, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians fled political chaos and physical danger in their homelands. Between 1975 and 1979, some 300,000 of these refugees were admitted to the United States through Presidential action. The law at the time restricted refugee admissions, and many members of Congress wanted to establish a more regular system of immigration and resettlement.

The Refugee Act of 1980 raised the annual ceiling for refugees to 50,000, created a process for reviewing and adjusting the refugee ceiling to meet emergencies, and required annual consultation between Congress and the President. The law changed the definition of “refugee” to a person with a “well-founded fear of persecution,” a standard established by United Nations conventions and protocols. It also funded a new Office of U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs and an Office of Refugee Resettlement and built on already existing public-private partnerships that helped refugees settle and adjust to life in their new country.

Read the full post on the AOTUS blog.

View all pages of the Refugee Act of 1980 on the National Archives’ Flickr account

In the South China Sea, crewmen of the amphibious cargo ship USS Durham (LKA-114) take Vietnamese refugees aboard a small craft. The refugees will be transferred later by mechanized landing craft (LCM) to the freighter Transcolorado., 4/3/1975. General Records of the Department of the Navy, National Archives Identifier 558518

Refugee Act of 1980:  A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise the procedures for the admission of refugees, to amend the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 to establish a more uniform basis for the provision of assistance to refugees, and for other purposes, page one (Public Law 96-212—The Refugee Act of 1980), approved March 17, 1980
National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

Today is International Archives Day! Did you know that Congress established the National Archives of the United States in 1934 to preserve and care for the records of the U.S. Government?

Previously, Federal records were kept in various basements, attics, and abandoned buildings with little security or concern for storage conditions. This photo shows Shipping Board Bureau records that were being stored in the White House Garage!

In 1935, Archives staff began to survey Federal records and the next year they began transferring records to the new National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

The National Archives now has over 40 facilities nationwide including field archives, Federal Records Centers, Presidential Libraries, the Federal Register, and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Learn more about the National Archives and our many locations on our website

Emmy award–winning journalist and executive producer Regina Griffin presents her  documentary, Brown Babies: The Mischlingskinder Story, at a free screening Tuesday, January 7, at noon at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. 

 The film presents the story of the unwanted, ignored, and forgotten children born to German women and African-American soldiers after World War II.

 Presented in partnsership with the National Archives’ Afro-American History Society. (102 minutes.)