A set of three metal gates facing Third Street marks the entrance to the State Archives. Enter the center gate and proceed through the courtyard to the entrance. Upon entering the Archives lobby, a staff member will greet you and be available to assist you.
Search Room Hours
The Pennsylvania State Archives is open Wednesday-Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm; and Saturday 9:00 to 12:00 am and 1:00 to 4:00 pm, excluding State holidays. Original records are not pulled on weekdays from 12.00-1.00pm; only microfilmed records are available on Saturdays.
Quarter-operated lockers are available in the lobby for personal belongings. Items such as coats, hats, handbags, hip packs, briefcases, books, computer cases, and pens are prohibited in the Search Room. A locker will be assigned by the receptionist when registering or upon request. Please bring a quarter to deposit in the locker when you remove the key; the quarter will be returned automatically when the key is replaced.
Visitors using original records in the Manuscript Reading Room will be asked to complete a registration form and show a photo ID with a current address as proof of identification beginning their research. The registration form is available at the receptionist's desk, and when completed, is given to the Search Room archivist.
Visitors using microfilm records in the Microfilm Reading Room are simply asked to sign the register when entering and leaving for the day. No registration form is required; however, if both original records and microfilm are used, a form must be completed before using original records.
The Archives' Search room is divided into two separate sections, with one designated for the use of records on microfilm, and one for the use of original records. Many of the more commonly used records are found on microfilm, including Census Records, Land Records, County Records, Military Records, Naturalization Records, and Prison Records. Microfilm records are self-service, with microfilm readers and printers available for patron use. Indexes and handouts are available to facilitate research. Personal research materials should be kept with you at all times when using the Microfilm Reading Room.
Original records not found on microfilm are available for research in the Manuscript Reading Room. Call slips are filled out by the patron with the assistance of the archivist on duty, one for each box, volume or loose item requested. Materials are retrieved by staff for the patron, four containers at time, with an emphasis on careful handling and preservation. No pens or additional notes, other than one folder or notebook of reference materials, are permitted in the Manuscript Reading Room. Original records are not pulled on weekdays from 12.00-1.00pm. Call slips for records to be retrieved before noon must be turned in by 11.45am.
Portable computers and digital cameras (without flashes) are permitted. A "Use of Reproductions" form must be completed when photographs are taken for publication. Portable scanning devices, however, are not allowed; all scanning or photocopying of archival documents must be done by Archives staff. To use other special equipment such as a voice recorder, photography flashes or special lighting, please secure prior permission from an archivist. Special arrangements may need to be made prior to your visit. Free Wi-Fi is available in research areas.
For more detailed information, consult our search room rules.
Microfilm Reader/Printer Copies
Copies of microfilmed records may be made at our self-service microfilm reader/printer machines at the rates noted below. These machines can generate paper copies and they allow the option of transferring images to an approved flash/USB drive that must be purchased on site. Payment for copies must be with cash in the exact amount or by check or money order payable to the "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." PLEASE NOTE: The staff cannot make change for bills larger than twenty dollars.
An archivist will be available in the Manuscript Reading Room for assistance in locating and retrieving materials and to provide general reference guidance. The Microfilm Reading Room is designed to be self-service. Guides and handouts explaining many of the commonly-used records on microfilm are available to assist in research.
Most State Archives descriptive listings and topical research guides are available on our website, and you can maximize your research time here by consulting these online resources at home, prior to your visit. Paper copies of guides and handouts are available in both the Microfilm and Manuscript Reading Rooms. Guides to the microfilm are found on the tables in the Microfilm Reading Room and on the top of the film cabinets. Select published sources are located on the reference bookshelves. Additional published materials, including county and family histories, are available at the State Library.
Children are welcome at the Archives; those under the age of 14 should be accompanied by an adult. Disruptive children (or adults) may be asked to leave.
Food and Drink
No food, drink, or smoking is permitted in the lobby or research areas. A water fountain is located in the lobby.
Rest rooms are found in the locker areas at either end of the lobby.
Which Reading Room to Choose
Visitors may make use of both the Microfilm and Manuscript Reading Rooms as needed, although different registration and security procedures apply to the two rooms. Here is a general breakdown of what types of materials are available in each area:
IN THE MICROFILM READING ROOM...