Research

Policies and Procedures


  • What kind of research and reference services does the Library offer?

    Reference inquiries and questions about research can be sent to the Carter Library via a variety of methods. You may use our Contact form and select Ask An Archivist for details.

    The Carter Library also has a research room available for onsite, in-person research. See Plan Your Visit for additional details on visiting us.

    If a personal research visit is not possible or if the nature of your inquiry requires in-depth research beyond reference services provided by staff, you might wish to hire a research assistant. Please visit NARA’s listing of Independent Researchers Available for Hire for more information.

  • Who may use the Library’s research collections?

    All researchers will be given an orientation and will need to complete an application onsite as part of the orientation process in order for us to assess your needs and for you to gain access to the historical materials.

    Anyone from the general public is welcome to use the library’s research collections and resources. You do not need to be an American citizen or present credentials or a letter of recommendation. However, there are some additional things to keep in mind with regards to research by individuals under the age of 18:

    If you are a minor, 14 or older, and have photo identification bearing your current address:

    • You do not need to have a parent or guardian with you.
    • Your ID should include your current address. We will accept a driver’s license, learner’s permit, non-driving state ID, or school ID.

    If you are a minor, 14 or older, and do not have photo identification bearing your current address:

    • You must have a parent or guardian accompany you.
    • Your parent or guardian must have a photo ID with proof of current address.
    • The archival staff member in charge of your researcher orientation will use your parent’s or guardian’s ID during the researcher application process.
    • Your parent or guardian may leave once you have your researcher card. You must have your researcher card with you in order to be able to come back without your parent or guardian.

    If you are under 14:

    • Your parent or guardian must stay with you at all times while you conduct your research.
    • Your parent or guardian must have a photo ID with proof of current address. Both of you must register for research and go through the orientation and application process onsite, as directed.
  • Do I need to make an appointment and/or can I ask that materials be pulled in advance?

    No appointment is required, but it is helpful to let Library staff know of your visit. Use our Contact form and select the Ask An Archivist option to get in touch with us. It can be good to have a conversation with us about your research needs prior to your visit so that we can establish that we have records relevant to your inquiry.

    The Library staff does not pull research materials in advance of your visit, but you are welcome to communicate with us about your anticipated needs so that we can best assist you during your time onsite.

  • What may I bring with me when doing onsite research?

    The Carter Library essentially follows the overall Regulations for NARA Researchers. Additional location-specific guidance will be supplied by archival staff at the Library. A locker will be provided for you during your visit.

  • On what topics does the Library have materials?

    Shortly after leaving the White House, Jimmy Carter donated to the United States government his presidential historical materials, including the files of his White House staff. The Library has added, and continues to acquire, additional collections to supplement and enhance these core research holdings.

    Domestic and foreign policies and national political affairs related to the Carter administration (1977-1981) are the primary topics represented in the Library’s holdings. Materials from the Office of the First Lady are also available. Many aspects of American society, business, and culture are also represented. Please be advised that some material is yet unavailable or has been withdrawn.

    See Collections and Books, as well as our Frequently Requested page, for additional information regarding the Library’s holdings.

  • How do I find the information or records that I need?

    The Library’s website has a great deal of information regarding Collections and Books, as well as Frequently Requested material and/or topics.

    The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum is part of the National Archives and Records Administration; therefore, the majority of the Library’s holdings are also described in the National Archives Catalog (NAC). You can filter your search results by Location—select “Jimmy Carter Library” to refine your results. It is recommended that you keep track of any search results of interest in whatever method works best for you; however, we do recommend that you at the very least keep track of the National Archives Identifier (NAID) for any relevant results so that staff can easily retrieve the same results when assisting you with a request.

    The American Presidency Project and the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series are additional external resources of note.

    You can also Ask An Archivist—let us know what kind of initial research you have done prior to your inquiry so that we can be of better assistance.

  • Are all of the historical materials open to research?

    While the majority of the Library’s holdings are available to research, some records are unavailable. In some cases, the records themselves might as of yet be unprocessed. (Unprocessed means the material has not yet been arranged, described, preserved, and/or reviewed for restrictions.) Details regarding Access and Use Restrictions with regards to unprocessed collections typically can be found via the National Archives Catalog (NAC). Unprocessed collections generally cannot be made available for research, but we encourage you to contact us via Ask An Archivist to let us know of your interest in particular collections still in need of processing.

    In other cases, select documents might be withdrawn from collections. When this occurs, descriptions of these records, along with the categorical reason for their withdrawal, will appear listed on a Withdrawal Sheet at the front of each file unit. The majority of withdrawn records pertain to either national security-related information protected from release or they have been withdrawn because their release would be an unwarranted invasion of an individual’s privacy. Occasional other restrictions derive from specific agreements (referred to as deeds of gift) between the Library and those who have donated materials or are due to statutory/agency restrictions.

    In some collections, such as the Records of the National Security Advisor, there are still significant amounts of material that has not been made available yet, so be sure to consult the finding aid for details and/or inquire with staff prior to your visit.

  • How can I request that donor-restricted materials be released for research?

    Please consult the following guidance: Appeal of Donor Restrictions. To submit your request, Ask An Archivist using our Contact form.

  • How can I request declassification of materials withdrawn/unavailable for reasons of national security?

    The Jimmy Carter Library’s Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) program allows researchers to seek declassification of specific items under the current Executive Order in place regarding Classified National Security Information.

    If you encounter a Withdrawal Sheet describing materials of interest and that the reason for withdrawal is because of national security information, you may request mandatory review for declassification. Staff can provide you with a Presidential Libraries Mandatory Review Request form (NA Form 14020.) The requested documents should be individually identified by the requester with sufficient specificity to the extent possible and archival staff should be able to locate the items with reasonable effort. List items from one folder only on each request form and complete sections I, II, and III on the form. In some collections, such as the Records of the National Security Advisor, there are still significant amounts of material that has not been made available yet. You can request entire folders in instances where you do not know descriptive details for individual documents.

    For onsite requests, return the completed forms to the research room attendant. If you are not conducting research onsite and would like to submit an MDR request, please submit the request to us please use our Contact form and select via Ask An Archivist.

    Library staff will strive to submit your declassification request as soon as possible after receipt of your completed request forms. Requests are submitted to federal agencies (as applicable) for review. However, there currently is a backlog of requests. If your request exceeds 30 documents, Library staff will put the balance of your request in a submission queue. Then, as other mandatory review workload permits, Library staff will submit further increments from your request in the queue. If a document has been exempted from declassification in whole or in part within the past two years, it will not be submitted for re-review at this time.

    Once the Library receives a response from all equity-holding agencies, the response is placed in a queue to be worked by Library staff. Once the response is processed, Library staff will notify you of the outcome of the review, i.e. whether the requested documents were released-in-full, released-in-part, and/or denied in full.

    To learn more about your appeal rights under MDR, please visit ISCAP.

  • How can I order copies of textual materials?

    Copies/scans produced by archival staff are $0.75 per page with a minimum charge of $15.00. Please do not pay in advance of billing.

    Please note that, due to limited staff time and resources, Library staff typically cannot make value judgments as to what material should or should not be copied/scanned—instead, we will copy/scan the entire contents of specific file units as identified by the researcher. If individual items (for example, a speech) are easily locatable, we can provide copies/scans of individual items in those instances.

    Provide specific citation information (e.g. collection, container number, file unit title) to the extent possible when making copy requests.

    For audiovisual materials, please send any inquiries to us via our Contact form by selecting the Ask An Archivist option. Your request will be forwarded to the Audiovisual Department for handling and discussion of fees.

    Self-service copies made onsite are $0.20 cents per page.

  • Can I file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for material in the Library?

    Yes, you can file a FOIA request, but note that FOIA does not apply to the majority of the Library’s holdings. For more information, visit the National Archives website.

  • How do I cite archival material from the Library?

    It is important that researchers employ an adequate form of citation so that materials can be relocated easily. Regardless of footnote style, citations typically should contain the following elements:

    • Type of document (e.g. memo, letter, cable, report, etc.)
    • Names of sender and recipient or title of document, as applicable
    • Date of document
    • Folder title
    • Box Number (note: box numbers sometimes change and items should never be identified only by box number)
    • Collection title (You can also note any sub-series, as applicable)
    • Jimmy Carter Library
    • National Archives Identifier (NAID) if the item was located as a digital object via the National Archives Catalog
  • Can you appraise/authenticate something for me?

    The Jimmy Carter Library and Museum does not appraise nor authenticate historical materials, artwork, or political memorabilia. For information about appraisals and appraiser referrals, you can check the websites for the American Society of Appraisers, the Appraisers Association of American, and the International Society of Appraisers.

  • How do I access declassified documents via the CREST system?

    A portion of declassified Carter presidential papers is available in digital format. This material had been accessible on a stand-alone CREST computer system in the Research Room of the Carter Library until July 2016 when the computers failed. We have recently obtained raw copies of the files and are working to upload them to the National Archives Catalog so they can be available to the public in a searchable format. While we prepare the files for the Catalog, a process we anticipate will take many months, we can provide copies as requested. For copies and an estimate of cost, please contact Carter.Library@nara.gov or 404-865-7100. We will update this statement with the appropriate web address once the documents are available online.

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