Cold War Files: All Units: Resources: National Security Archive - George Washington University

National Security Archive - George Washington University

The National Security Archive combines a unique range of functions in one non governmental, non-profit institution. The Archive is simultaneously a research institute on international affairs, a library and archive of declassified U.S. documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, a public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information through the FOIA, and an indexer and publisher of the documents in books, microfiche, and electronic formats. The Archive's approximately $2.3 million yearly budget comes from publication revenues and from private philanthropists such as the Carnegie Corporation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation. As a matter of policy, the Archive receives no government funding.

The National Security Archive was founded in 1985 by a group of journalists and scholars who had obtained documentation from the U.S. government under the Freedom of Information Act and sought a centralized repository for these materials. Over the past decade, the Archive has become the world's largest non governmental library of declassified documents. Located on the seventh floor of the George Washington University's Gelman Library in Washington, D.C., the Archive is designed to apply the latest in computerized indexing technology to the massive amount of material already released by the U.S. government on international affairs, make them accessible to researchers and the public, and go beyond that base to build comprehensive collections of documents on specific topics of greatest interest to scholars and the public.

The Archive's holdings include more than two million pages of accessioned material in over 200 separate collections. Supporting some 30 terminals, the Archive's computer system hosts major databases of released documents (over 100,000 records), authority files of individuals and organizations in international affairs (over 30,000 records), and FOIA requests filed by Archive staff and outside requesters on international affairs (over 20,000 records). Despite the Archive's non-traditional role (since the originals remain inside the government -- hopefully), Archive staff have developed extensive expertise with all levels of archival recordkeeping, ranging from basic collection description to box- and file-level inventories to individual document cataloging.

The Archive reading room is open to the public without charge and has welcomed visitors from 32 foreign countries and across the United States--some of whom stay for weeks. The Archive fields more than 2,500 public service requests for documents and information every year. Archive staff are frequently called on to testify before Congress, lecture at universities, and appear on national broadcasts and in media interviews on the subject of the Freedom of Information Act and various topics in international affairs for which the Archive's collections provide documentation.

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