Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington Navy Yard – Washington, D.C.
By Karl Rubis
The Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) is the main archive repository for the U.S. Navy. It is officially called the Operational Archives due to its designation as the official archive of U.S. naval operations, primarily post-1945 (pre-1945 records are located at the National Archives). The Operational Archives contains command histories/operational reports from naval commands, the office records of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), personal papers, oral histories, manuscripts, and many more documents and artifacts which deal with the U.S. Navy, primarily in the twentieth and twenty-first century. The NHHC is located on the grounds of the Washington Navy Yard (WNY).
Visiting researchers are required to enter through the WNY Visitors Center at 11th and O Street Southeast. If you drive to the WNY with a rental car, a rental agreement and government ID (state’s driver license) is necessary for the daily pass. If you drive your own car, bring your driver’s license and proof of registration and insurance. The best way to navigate the WNY is via a map which can be found on the NHHC website. The WNY can be quite a labyrinth without a map to guide you, although the people on WNY are helpful and can offer directions, if necessary. The research room for the archives is located on the third floor of building 57, the main building for NHHC (805 Kidder Breese St. SE).
The Operational Archives operates according to most common research practices for archival research; lockers are provided for storage, laptop computers and cameras are allowed, and work is allowed in pencil, not pen. However, the archive is closed on Wednesday and there is no Wi-Fi service in the reading room (although the NHHC library has computers dedicated for patron use, including internet). Also, there are no set pull times for records, as in the National Archives. If you have a security clearance, access to classified records and the secure research room is possible; it operates with the same procedures as the unclassified research space. It is highly recommended that you contact the staff before your trip to the Operational Archives. The knowledge staff is happy to provide valuable assistance with your project. A complete list of procedures for research at the NHHC can be found on its website.
Three airports service the Washington DC region; Reagan National (DCA), Dulles (IAD), and Baltimore-Washington International (BWI). For those travelling without a car, Metrorail has a stop at Reagan National airport on the Blue and Yellow line. Dulles is connected to the Metrorail system via a 30 minute bus ride to the West Falls Church station on the Orange line. BWI is connected via the Maryland commuter rail system (MARC) which connects BWI to the Metrorail system via a stop at Union Station. The websites for each of these airports contain detailed directions for travel into DC.
Lodging expenses in Washington DC varies widely, but tends to be costly overall. If you are travelling without a car, there are many hotels throughout the region which are close to Metrorail stops. Obviously, the least expensive option would be to stay with family/friend. Even if this particular location is located outside the beltway, it would be an option if it is near one of the commuter rail systems (Virginia Railway Express or MARC). Both of these systems connect to the Metrorail system.
In Washington D.C., there are three ways to travel to the Washington Navy Yard and the archives at the NHHC; Metrorail, car, and Metrobus. Two Metrorail stations can be used; Navy Yard on the Green line or Eastern Market on the Orange line. For both stations, it is approximately a fifteen minute walk to the WNY. If you drive, parking is available, but scarce at WNY. Visitors will have to get a hang tag from the visitor center to park in designated spots. If parking cannot be found on WNY grounds (which is a distinct possibility), parking is available just outside the gate via parking meters on the street or a pay parking lot ($10 per day). Several Metrobus routes from varying locations in the DC region have stops at WNY. Metrobus and Metrorail are run by the same authority and its website contains information on cost and schedules.
There are an ample number of restaurants located within the food court at WNY. The food court’s hours are limited to lunchtime and the counters are closed by 2.00pm. Government ID is not required at any of these food outlets. Researchers are able to bring a lunch and store it in the lockers provided. There are several small parks/sitting areas within the Navy Yard where researchers are able to sit and eat a meal.
There are only a few options for food outside the WNY. Along 8th ST SE, also known as Barracks Row, there are many restaurants and food outlets, mostly suited for lunch or dinner meals. Barracks Row has undergone significant revitalization in recent years and many of the restaurants are quite nice.