The Research Room

The United Nations Archives is committed to providing the best reference service to all of our researchers. Our research staff will offer professional advice on aspects of your research that are relevant to United Nations archives. 

Please remember that the records held by the UN Archives are unique and irreplaceable. By their very nature archival materials are fragile and vulnerable to damage. If an archival document is lost, stolen, or irreparably damaged, the information it contains is lost forever. For this reason, we have developed stringent security procedures. Archival material can only be consulted in supervised research rooms. The rules that govern how documents must be handled are explained as part of the admission process. 

However, as a general rule, anyone can access UN Archives. Our usual customers are either secretariat staff, delegations to the United Nations, members of permanent pissions other internal users or external researchers (professors, historians, lawyers, university students, genealogists and the general public). All are welcome to access the archival collections. 

Our research room is open to the public during normal business hours. The majority of our holdings are open to the public, either in person in our research room, or, for some records, online via our Search Engine

United Nations Research Room

Technicalities

Location

We are located near the United Nations Headquarters on the east side of Manhattan, New York City. The exact address will be provided to you once you have registered for an appointment.

 

Hours

We are open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. All archival documents must be returned to the reading room staff by 4:30 p.m.

The reading room is closed on United Nations Headquarters official holidays. In 2018, these days are the following: 1 January (New Year’s Day), 30 March (Good Friday), 28 May (Memorial Day), 15 June (Eid al-Fitr), 4 July (Independence Day), 21 August (Eid al-Adha), 3 September (Labour Day), 22 November (Thanksgiving Day), 25 December (Christmas Day)

As we are often booked weeks in advance, it is advisable to plan your visit with as much advance notice as possible. During the months of April - August, you must ensure you have a desk booked at least 2 months in advance of your visit, otherwise, we cannot guarantee that you will be able to conduct research due to space issues. You will only be able to access the archives on the days for which you have pre-registered.

 

Accessibility

If you have a physical or hearing disability, are visually handicapped or have special language needs, please contact us before your visit and we will discuss how we can assist with any requirements. We do have an accessible entrance and bathroom and will make every reasonable accommodation so that you may use our Research Room to its fullest capacity. 

 

What to Bring

We provide secure lockers for your personal items, including bags, suitcases, beverages, and coats. Each desk comes equipped with outlets. You also have access to WI-FI and can borrow a digital camera, if needed. There are camera stands that will assist you with lighting and positioning documents for photographing. 

Allowed:

  • Pencils and paper/notepads
  • Laptops, tablets and cell phones
  • Digital cameras
  • Hand-held personal scanners

Prohibited:

  • Food and/or beverages of any type
  • Cell phone conversations, audible music, or other distracting noises
  • Large items such as briefcases, suitcases or coats
  • Flatbed scanners, or any type of scanner where the pages must be fed through the scanner

Making An Appointment

The first step to making an appointment is to have a carefully planned research strategy. The strategy should:

  • allow adequate time for background research, establishing which archives hold relevant collections, and
  • include a work schedule which takes into account the extent of the material to be consulted.

Look through our Finding Aids, the Dag Hammarskjold Library, and other External Resources on our website to understand the records environment of the United Nations proved very helpful in shaping your research strategy.

Once you have ascertained that you will need to consult the UN Archives, or have questions about if our records will be relevant to your research, send our reference archivist a message to begin conversation. 

Some suggestions for making a reference enquiry: 

  • Be as specific as possible about your topic. If your research concerns an individual, include full name, previous name, date, places, etc.
  • Be sure to mention sources already consulted
  • Please mention any previous communication with the UN Archives

Once you have been in conversation with the reference archivist and have determined that you would like to visit, you will be asked to select your research dates. Be advised that all the desks in our reading room are often booked, and so you must contact the archives in advance to ensure that you will be able to do your research. Booking a desk at least 4-6 weeks in advance is preferred. Especially during the months of April - September, we may not be able to accommodate you on short notice. Due to the limited number of desks, if you do not show up to your research appointment for 2 days without contacting us, your reservation will be cancelled. 

It is advisable to come to the archives with a list of files that you would like to view. The majority of our archival records are held on-site, so there is no need to request them in advance.

Reference Advice

Our reference staff can help you in discussing research interests, locating sources within the UN system, arranging a visit to our reading room, citing and publishing our materials, and getting reproductions.

The Archives will provide information about sources relevant to your topic, but due to the number of requests we cannot undertake extensive research. The archivist will assist you in locating possible records of interest, and in reserving a desk for you in our reference room if necessary.

ARMS receives enquiries by e-mail. If you do not receive an answer within five business days please resend your email as we may not have received it.

Reproduction, citation and copyrights

Reproduction

You are welcome to take notes and/or photographs of any of our materials while you are in our research room. 

We are constantly digitizing different collections of archival material, based on historical importance and preservation concerns. All of our unclassified, digitized material can be found through the Search Engine

If you need a high-resolution scan of the image or document you wish to use, contact our reference archivist to discuss options. We are able to provide a small number of scans on an ad-hoc basis, or can arrange with you to reserve a desk in the research room so that you can make the reproductions yourself. We do not have the resources for large digitzation projects that are not already in our departmental work plan, but we are open to discussing partnerships for the planning and funding for these types of initiatives. 

When we digitize, documents are typically: 

  • scanned to a resolution of 300 ppi and 1-bit depth black & white mode, and 
  • saved as a PDF file

The photographs are typically: 

  • scanned to a resolution of 300 to 600 ppi and a bit-depth of 8-bit for greyscale images and 24-bit for colour images
  • saved as either JPEG or TIFF

For more information on these standards, please see our Digitization Guide

 

Citation and copyrights

Unless otherwise noted, there is no restriction on the publication of documents, images and/or quotations from archival material held at the UN Archives. This includes publication of thesis, books, websites, films, etc.

Precise citations are extremely important. They give credit to the authors of the work you have consulted, and provide a way for others to find the same sources that you have used. Incorrect or incomplete citations are seen by some institutions and publishers as plagiarism, so please don't hesitate to contact us if you would like assistance or advice on citing your work. 

The style of citation depends on the preferences of your discipline, instructor, and/or publisher. Information that must be included in any citation of United Nations archival material is: 

  1. Repository: United Nations Archives (can be further abbreviated to UNA after the first mention)
  2. Reference number: typically, this will look like "S-0123-0456-78"
  3. Title: can be the title of the document, the title of the folder, or the caption of the photo
  4. Date: the date (or date range) of the document
  5. (Optionally, you can include the title of the folder, series, and fonds to give more specific information)

We do keep track of publications that use UN archival material, and are happy to display a copy of your publication in our research room. Please contact us for the mailing address. 

Classified Records

Access Requests

Records under 20 years old which are not security classified may occasionally be accessed on a case-by-case basis, subject to the written consent of the originating office.
 

Declassification Requests

Declassification opens a classified record for research and reproduction. Records over 20 years old are generally open for public research, unless the classification level "Strictly Confidential" (or related) applies.

Requests for both access and declassification have to be made in writing to the UN Archives at arms[at]un.org. As the process requires the consent of Secretariat departments, allow a period of time for a decision as to whether these records will be made available for access or declassified
 

UNWCC Archives

All archives of the UN War Crimes Commission (UNWCC) are available on application to any person researching the history of the commission or related topics in international law or associated fields. To apply please send an email to arms[at]un.org. Alternatively, you can access these records at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

For further information on declassification or access, please do not hesitate to contact the Archives.