Frequently Asked Questions

How do I search for…?

  • a specific person?
    • UN Staff: Most likely, only high-level officials will be named in folder titles. Otherwise, you can search by relevant offices, committees, or topics. Secretary-General files (especially series of correspondence, country files, or on relevant topics) may also contain mention of specific staff members. For current staff members, please contact us with the nature of your request. 
    • UNRRA Staff: Contact us with the person's name (including maiden name if applicable), date of birth and place of birth. If we have the personnel file of that individual, you will be asked to provide us with proof of relationship. 
    • Other individuals (diplomats, politicians, etc.): see “UN Staff”. Additionally, their papers may be deposited with a university – do a Google search for their name and “papers” or “archives”. 
  • audio-visual materials?
  • records from the General Assembly, Security Council and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)?
  • the League of Nations? The core collection is available at the UN Offices in Geneva ArchivesRelated records can be found in the UN Archives. 
  • the records of former Secretaries-General Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon? Typically, archives are closed for 20 years after the documents are created (ie a document from 1999 would become available for research in 2019. However, records of the former Secretaries-General have been reviewed and the majority of them have been approved for public distribution. These disclosed records are digitized and available via our search engine (using title and full-text search), but NOT physically in our reading room. Start with the research guides for the former Secretaries-General.
  • non-typical reference numbers? Reference numbers or codes (i.e. not in the S-0000-0000-0000 format) are legacy reference numbers either from previous archive catalogues or internal UN filing systems. Reference staff may be able to assist you in cross referencing these numbers with our cataloguing system. However, the numbers are from the office of origin filing system and are not something we can use to search the records. 

Can I…?

  • Access digitized archives at home? Yes - search engine -> Browse by Digital Object
  • See items in Queens / the Vault? Yes – if the reading room staff indicate that the files you would like to see are in our Long Island City location, they will alert you and send you directions to our records center. 
  • Get access to Strictly Confidential/Non-Disclosed documents? Potentially - please email us a list of the files you'd like access to, and our reference staff will initiate the declassification review process. 
  • Get access to documents less than 20 years old? Potentially - please email us a list of the files you'd like access to, and our reference staff will initiate the access review process.
  • Modify the dates of my visit? Yes, if we have space – please email the reference staff for confirmation. Due to high interest, if you miss more than 2 days of your scheduled visit without emailing the reading room staff, your reservation will be cancelled. 
  • Come in early / stay late? No. Hours are 9:00 am -5:00 pm, with folders returned to reference desk staff by 4:30 pm.
  • Use UN Archive material for publication? Yes, if property cited.
  • Have documents digitized by ARMS staff? Yes - for researchers who cannot come to New York in person, we offer limited digitization, depending on available resources. Typically, this looks like 3-5 folders or 5 photos. 
  • Make copies of documents? Yes, although we do not provide copying services using our copy machine or scanner - please bring a digital camera to document the files you wish to consult.
  • Use my camera / phone / tablet to take photos? Yes.
  • Borrow ARMS’ camera? Yes.
  • Use my own scanner? Maybe - the specific model must be approved by the archivist in advance of your visit.
  • Leave my suitcase/laptop/backpack here overnight? No.
  • Bring my luggage for the day when in transit to airport? Yes.