General Information

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The Archives houses a number of collections relating to the history of the institution. The main collection consists of the Central Policy Files of the executive offices, spanning the institution's history from its inception in 1863 up through the present.

 Central Policy Files

The Central Policy Files of the National Academies Archives contain the administrative records of the National Academy of Sciences and its operating arm, the National Research Council, as well as administrative records of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine. The records in the Central Policy Files encompass operational and program papers documenting the operations and organization of the Academy complex and its study committees. The Academies' activities with international non-governmental scientific unions and organizations are particularly well-represented in the collection.

The documents that make up the Central Policy Files were created and/or received by the institution's Executive Offices in the course of conducting institutional business. The collection therefore only includes institutional, and not personal, papers. The records contained in the Central Policy Files are considered privileged records and are closed to the public for a period of twenty-five years. Records in the Central Policy Files twenty-five years old and older are open to qualified researchers.

The records in the Central Policy Files are organized according to the NAS Records System, the structure of which follows the organization of the institution at the time the records in question were created. Under this system, the placement of an activity within the collection may change over a period of years, corresponding to changes in the organization of the institution. Beginning with the arrangement of records created in 2000, a modified and streamlined version of the NAS Records System has been in place.

For ease of use, the Central Policy Files are divided into discrete date banks, each of which encompasses a given number of years. Outline finding aids to the Central Policy Files correspond to date banks as they exist in the Archives. Because the Academies' activities are so numerous and varied, it is not possible to give capsule descriptions of each. However, the individual entries in the outlines to the collection should provide a general idea of the scope and subject matter of the activities documented.

Central Policy File Date Banks


 Division Collections

Shortly after the end of the First World War, the National Research Council was reorganized into two series of divisions, the first concerned with the Research Council's relationships with government and other bodies, and the second representing specific scientific disciplines. The divisions' memberships consisted of nominated representatives of scientific societies and representatives of various government departments. In July of 1943 the two series of divisions were merged.

Although individual divisions were to undergo reorganization and even, in some cases, reduction to committee status or outright abolishment, the Research Council was to retain the divisional structure until 1973, when that structure was supplanted by a structure made up of assemblies and commissions.

The National Academies Archives' divisional holdings are organized into the following separate collections, each containing the correspondence, reports, and meeting minutes of the divisions and their constituent units:

 Organized Collections

The Archives contains a number of collections of the records of various program units and Academies activities:

The Archives also maintains a limited collection of photographs relating to the institution's history.


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