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National Archives at Philadelphia

Exhibition and research facility of the official records of the American democracy


The Experience

The National Archives enables visitors to see for themselves the records of what the government has done. Here are collections for all manner of agencies, including the Mint, NASA, the Marines, the Census Bureau, the Selective Service, the FAA, the Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the little-known (and long abolished) Chemical Warfare Service.

Holdings are also useful for genealogy research. The gallery is found just off busy Chestnut Street, and it is dedicated to changing exhibitions drawn on the rich and varied archival collections. During a recent visit, a display about lighthouses featured Coast Guard drawings, photographs, maps and manuscripts.


Archivists measure their collections in cubic feet, and this archive has more than 50,000, dating from the 18th century to the 1990s. When federal courts and the vast array of federal agencies in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia no longer need their documents, they retire a select percentage here. What is kept has historic value and evidence rights of U.S. citizens.

Other Information

Open Mon – Fri and some Saturdays. School-age children welcome with adult. Researchers need identification.

Insider Tip

Free workshops on family history, genealogy, research in archives, and teaching history using archival documents, as well as tours of the facility, are frequently held. See their Web site or call for a schedule.

Kids’ Stuff

This building occupies the site originally occupied by the first White House, built when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital in the 1790s.

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