The National Archives, officially known as the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), is an extensive and invaluable collection of governmental and historical records located in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. Established in 1934, it serves as the nation's record keeper, safeguarding and providing public access to billions of documents, photographs, maps, films, and other important artifacts that trace the narrative of the United States' history.
The National Archives' cornerstone attractions are the three Charters of Freedom: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. These seminal documents are proudly displayed in the rotunda of the main building, offering visitors a chance to view the very foundations upon which the United States was built.
However, the National Archives' collection is far more extensive than these three documents. Its vast assortment of materials encompasses over 13 billion pages of textual records, millions of maps and photographs, and many more. This wealth of information deals with every conceivable topic and period in U.S. history, from the earliest colonial records to the latest digital data from recent administrations. The collection also includes important international artifacts, such as an original version of the 1297 Magna Carta, one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy.
In addition to its main building in Washington, D.C., the National Archives operates numerous facilities throughout the country, including presidential libraries, regional archives, and federal records centers. These institutions collectively store and manage documents for all three branches of the federal government — executive, legislative, and judicial. The National Archives also actively promotes the use of these records in education and research, providing resources and programs for teachers, students, genealogists, historians, and other researchers.