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US National Archives
Home to some of the most-influential documents in the history of our Nation, the function of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is to preserve and archive government and historical documents. The records are incomplete with regard to many older documents, since preservation of documents was not very organized before 1934, when the first Archivist was appointed. Up until then, each government branch was in charge of archiving their own documents, and they did not always do a good job of it.
The NARA also seeks to make government records as accessible as possible to the public. The National Archives Building is where the NARA displays some of the most important documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. These documents are displayed in special cases in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, which is the main chamber of the National Archives Building.
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The NARA preserves more than just longer documents like the Declaration of Independence; the National Archives Building is home to smaller artifacts too, such as the canceled check that was used to purchase Alaska.
However, the NARA does not keep every record, but only those deemed to have “continuing value.” This is usually only 2 to 5 percent of the records generated by the government in a given year.
While the NARA is known primarily for preserving, restoring, and archiving paper documents, photographs, and film; they also store over 1.3 million gigabytes of electronic data.
Although the National Archive Building that was completed in 1935 is quite large, it quickly reached capacity, and by the late 1960’s many documents had to be moved to off-site storage and regional archives.
Useful Links: www.archives.gov/dc-metro/washington/