Conducting Research

The United Nations Archives is committed to providing the best reference service to all of our researchers. Our Research Room 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, ARMS has 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, delegation to the United Nations, members of Permanent Missions to the UN and 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 research room staff by 4:30 p.m.

The research room is closed on United Nations Headquarters official holidays. Please check the schedule so you are prepared for any impact to your research. 

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 we Provide

  • Secure lockers, with locks, for your personal items, including bags, suitcases, beverages, and coats.
  • Power outlets (120v) on each desk
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • A digital camera, as needed 
  • Camera stands that will assist you with lighting and positioning documents for photographing

What to Bring

Allowed:

  • Pencils and paper/notepads
  • Laptops, tablets and cell phones
  • Digital cameras
  • Hand-held personal scanners (must be preapproved)

Prohibited:

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

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. This will prove very helpful in shaping your research strategy.

If you have questions regarding the relevancy of our records 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 contacts with ARMS staff members

Once you have determined that you would like to visit the UN Archives, you must select your research dates. Be advised that all the desks in our research room may be booked, and so you must contact the archives in advance to ensure that you will be able to do your research. We advise that you book a desk at least 4-6 weeks in advance of your visit. 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 need to cancel or change your appointment, please give us as much notice as possible. If you do not show up to your research appointment without contacting us, your reservation will be given to any researchers waiting on an appointment. 

We strongly advise you to come to the archives with a list of files that you would like to consult. Although we can often accommodate last minute changes and provide access to archives you had not previously identified, it is not always possible to do so in a timely manner. 

Reference Advice

Our reference staff can help you by discussing your research interests, locating possible records of interest at the UN archives as well as sources within the UN system, arranging a visit to our research room, citing and publishing our materials, and getting reproductions. In short, we will provide as much information as we can about sources relevant to your topic, but due to the number of requests we cannot undertake extensive research. 

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 Copyright

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 archival material, based on historical importance and preservation concerns. All of our declassified, 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 can 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 digitization 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 they are typically: 

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

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
  • save 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 United Nations 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 do not hesitate to contact us if you would like assistance or advice on citing your work. 

Researchers wishing to reproduce or publish material found in the UN Archives which is held under copyright by a third party are responsible for requesting permission directly from the copyright holder.

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. Depending on the citation style of your field, you may need to include the title of the folder, series, and fonds

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

Archives over 20 years old are generally open to the public for research, unless the classification level of "Strictly Confidential" (or related) applies. 

Access and Declassification Requests

If you are seeking access to, or the declassification of records less than 20 years old and/or classified as "Strictly Confidential", there is a process whereby such requests will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, subject to the written consent of the originating office. 

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 review and consent of Secretariat departments, researchers should allow sufficient time for a decision to be reached. 
 

UNWCC Archives

All archives of the United Nations 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.