Research Procedures
Frequently Asked Questions

For information beyond the scope of the questions below, please contact the library by e-mail, mail (Gerald R. Ford Library, 1000 Beal Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109), telephone (734-205-0555), or fax (734-205-0571). Who may use the library's research collections?

Anyone may use the library's research collections. Scholars, mass media production staff, teachers, journalists, schoolchildren, attorneys, current government officials, and interested citizens are typical users by mail, e-mail, and telephone. On-site users are less diverse overall. Most are faculty and students pursuing academic projects. On-site researchers under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult researcher.

When is the library open?

The research room is open all year, Monday through Friday except Federal holidays, from 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Any changes to hours will be noted on the researcher news page.

How do I plan for research and find the documents I need?

Write, e-mail, or call the library to ask if we have material on your topic. We will consult our holdings and give you an assessment of the quantity, quality, and accessibility. We may also mail or e-mail you a detailed search report from PRESNET, our collection description database (See What is PRESNET?)

Scan the collection summary descriptions to identify potentially useful collections, then examine the detailed finding aids that link from the collection titles. Each finding aid gives information about the creation of the collection, types of documents and their arrangement, date span, completeness, and an overview of subject content. Most finding aids conclude with a box-by-box list of all folder titles. (See How can I do research by mail?).

Once you arrive at the library, an archivist will meet with you to explain our regulations and procedures. (See also "Regulations for the Public Use of Records in the National Archives and Records Administration" [36 CFR 1254]). The archivist also will offer advice about which collections seem most likely to contain useful material on your topic. You will be asked to furnish personal photo identification and verification of address, and to complete a simple registration form.

At any stage of the research process, please do not hesitate to ask an archivist for help when you have questions.

What is PRESNET?

PRESNET is an internal automated database that can be searched by library staff for researchers. Search reports can be sent to researchers by mail or e-mail. PRESNET facilitates subject access to about 90 percent of the library's open materials by generating lists of folders (with estimates of the number of pages in each) in response to queries for materials on any topic. PRESNET describes only "open" collections. A few "open" collections are not yet in the database (for instance, the bulk of the Ford Congressional Papers are not indexed in the database). The collection summary descriptions will alert you to such instances.

The PRESNET database can be searched by either free-text searching of folder titles and other finding aid text or through the use of a controlled vocabulary of about 1,400 subject index terms in a master thesaurus. Based upon information you provide, archivists will do PRESNET searches for you. The database is not available for searching on the Internet.

PRESNET is powerful, but there are things you must know to be an informed consumer. First, we assign only the most apt index terms to a folder, not every term that would fit every document. Second, a PRESNET search will guide you only to folders, and most folders will contain material on several topics. Third, broad topic searches will omit folders devoted to narrower topics; thus, searches under the index terms "Middle East Conflicts," "Sinai Accord," and "Egypt" will each yield overlapping but different results. Fourth, some files and topics do not lend themselves to folder-level subject indexing—your own creativity may be the key to finding what you need.

More information on PRESNET and a sample search report

Are all the papers open to research?

No. The majority of domestic policy and political affairs materials are processed and open to research. Many important defense and international affairs collections also are open. Unfortunately, other collections are wholly or partly closed as processing backlog. The collection summary descriptions list all collections and tell you their status. For a log of recent openings, see News Notes for Ford Library Researchers.

Most open collections will have some items that are temporarily restricted from public use. "Pinksheets" in the collections identify these withdrawn items and mark their file locations. Most closed items are national security classified or of such a nature that their release would be an unwarranted invasion of an individual's privacy. The National Archives and Records Administration temporarily restricts these and a few other categories of historical material regardless of source. Occasional other restrictions derive from specific agreements between the library and those who have donated materials.

Researchers may formally appeal the restriction of items closed for privacy or other reasons unrelated to national security. More information is available here. Researchers may use the "Mandatory Declassification Review" program to seek access to items closed as national security classified.

The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to donated historical materials, including the Ford Papers. The act does apply to a few groups of federal records placed at the library, and these are clearly identified in the collection entries.

Must I make advance arrangements to see certain "open" collections?

Yes. The collection summary descriptions will tell you which open collections require advance consultation with an archivist. These collections are well-arranged and have accurate public finding aids, but library staff have not completed review for privacy, national security,or other restrictable information. You may submit selected folders to the library's review queue, but it may take the library staff some time to prepare these folders for research. A sufficient advance consultation might be two days or several months, depending upon the complexity of the material, other workload, and the quantity requested.

May I see items in "unprocessed/closed" collections?

No. The library will release only files it has archivally processed, i.e. arranged, described, reviewed for restricted information, and inventoried to identify for researchers every item withdrawn for restriction. There is a partial exception which applies to unprocessed segments of White House files donated by President Ford. Under this exception, a researcher may suggest selective processing of any few items of unprocessed Ford Presidential Papers that a researcher might describe concretely and an archivist might locate readily.

How can I request declassification?

Systematic review for declassification is a high priority of our archival program. We have released many tens of thousands of pages in recent years, mostly as a result of declassification review by archivists and visiting teams from the State Department. In addition, we have digitized over 200,000 pages of classified material and referred the digital copies to CIA, Defense Department and other agencies for their systematic review.

As a supplement to systematic review, our “mandatory review” program allows researchers to seek declassification of specific items. We provide a special form for making the request. The requested items must be individually identified by the requester and readily locatable by an archivist. Typically, but not always, the requester draws upon citation information found on pinksheeted withdrawal notices that we have prepared during archival processing.

Most mandatory reviews require us to refer the documents to one or more Federal agencies with “equity” in the contents. We will strive to submit the first 35 documents of your request within 30 days of receipt of your forms.

Thereafter, we will submit the balance of your request in increments as other workload permits, according to a queue with other requesters. You may, therefore, want to prepare your request forms accordingly.

After we refer a mandatory review to an equity agency, we typically wait months, or even over one year, for a response. When we do have a response, we will strive to notify you within 30 days.

How can I do research by mail or by hiring a research assistant?

You can receive PRESNET search reports by mail or e-mail upon request. You can read and download our detailed finding aids to individual collections. Either of these tools might help you select and purchase reproductions for mailing to you (see How can I order reproductions?).

You may wish to find and hire a local research assistant. You could, for example, e-mail a "job proposal" to the discussion groups for University of Michigan graduate students in history ( or political science ( The library cannot become involved in any aspect of recruiting, evaluating, hiring, instructing, or paying research assistants, however.

How can I order reproductions?

The National Archives sets standard fees for reproduction services. Self-service photocopying at the library is available at $0.25 per page. Photocopying requested by mail, e-mail, or telephone is available at $0.80 per page with a minimum charge of $20.00. Billing is made upon completion of the order, and shipment is made upon receipt of payment. For additional information on these topics see Photocopying Fees and Policy.

Mail-order researchers face obvious difficulty in locating and selecting the items to be copied. We will be happy to provide consultation about files, via telephone or e-mail, but ultimately the researcher is the only person who can effectively locate and select the files to be photocopied. Library staff will conduct limited searches for specific items, but they will not presume to select the "good" items interfiled with related items. Usually, for mail-order copying in textual materials, this means that we will photocopy the entire contents of folders that have been selected by the researcher from our finding aids, PRESNET reports, or reference guidance. Of course, we also will photocopy any requested item that we can easily find and readily recognize.

For audiovisual materials and fees, contact the library's audiovisual unit or see reproductions of audiovisual materials.

Will I find that Gerald Ford wrote or commented extensively on the documents?

The Presidential Paperwork Log and the Presidential Handwriting File show the large volume of paperwork that President Ford handled. Most of President Ford's annotations are brief records of query, decision, acknowledgement, or instruction. Longer passages in his handwriting are few and scattered. In addition, documents stamped "The President Has Seen" may be found scattered in many collections, especially the White House Central Files' Subject File. Many senior advisers' files have folders reserved for their memorandums to the President.

President Ford relied extensively on meetings with a wide range of advisers to receive and gauge their views, communicate his own, and explore issues. The records of the President’s national security and foreign relations meetings are extensive. These are found mostly in the National Security Adviser’s Memoranda of Conversations subcollection

The library has only sporadic and scattered notes and minutes from Presidential meetings on domestic and political affairs. They are found especially in the collections of John Carlson, Kenneth Cole, James Connor, John Marsh, Ron Nessen, Michael Raoul-Duval (both Files and Papers), J. W. "Bill" Roberts, Margita White, and Robert Wolthuis. Minutes of Cabinet meetings and National Security Council meetings are on our web site.

How does copyright law affect research?

The United States copyright law (Public Law 94-553, effective January 1, 1978) extends statutory rights of authorship to unpublished works, which were previously protected by literary property rights under common law. Such works do not have to be registered with the Copyright Office to receive protection under the law.

In general the law provides copyright protection for a term of the life of the author plus 50 years. Works in the public domain and works prepared by U.S. government officials and employees as part of their official duties are not protected by copyright.

Researchers are advised that copyright gives to the author and his or her heirs the sole right of publication for the term of the copyright, regardless of the ownership of the physical embodiment of the work. Persons wishing to publish any unpublished writings included in the holdings of the library should obtain permission from the holder of the copyright. Permission to reproduce copyrighted materials in the library's still photograph, audiotape, videotape, motion picture, and other special format collections must also be obtained from the copyright holder.

If the name of a copyright holder is known to the library, it will be furnished upon request. Some individuals who have given their materials to the library also have donated their copyrights to the material.

The copyright law provides for "fair use" of copyrighted materials without the permission of the copyright holder. Fair use encompasses scholarship and research, although the extent of such use is bounded by limitations on quotation and reproduction.

Researchers with specific copyright questions should seek legal guidance. Please note that Federal employees are not authorized to provide such guidance.

Does the library have bibliographies, books, articles, and other material that I can use?

This web site offers a bibliography of core works of biographical interest. In addition, the library maintains a modest, noncirculating collection of printed works that include:
  • most Congressional hearings and reports, and some agency annual reports, 1974-1976. (Use our Congressional Information Service’s abstracts and indices to find hearings and reports on your topic. Use photocopied tables of contents, kept in the research room and arranged by Congressional committee, to browse our set of hearings.);
  • a small collection of scholarly and popular works in history, political science, and current affairs; student papers; standard reference works; and U. S. Government publications. (Use our card catalog or request Pro-Cite database searches to locate this material);
  • microfilm of the Grand Rapids Press, New York Times, Newsweek, and Time; and hard copies of the National Journal;
  • a reference file of miscellaneous magazine and newspaper articles, and occasional journal articles, conference papers, document photocopies, and other items. (Also called our "Vertical File," it is available in the research room in two oak file cabinets.);
  • Gerald Ford's 1949-1973 personal collection of Republican Party publications, congressional and other government publications, and comparable material. (Use a title list that is part of the finding aid to the Ford Congressional Papers.);
Selected bibliographies are available from our Pro-Cite database and can be sent to researchers by mail or e-mail. The relatively small database primarily serves very basic needs of undergraduate researchers, but others may find it useful as well. A special bibliographic handout, "Mostly Ford, Mostly Memoirs" is available in the research room along with the books it describes.

What research grants are available?

The Gerald R. Ford Foundation awards grants of up to $2000 each to support research that makes significant use of Ford Library holdings. A grant defrays the cost of travel to the library from points within North America, local living expenses, and reproduction fees. More information and application form

In addition, the library awards annually “The Gerald R. Ford Scholar Award in Memory of Robert M. Teeter.” The $5000 award supports dissertation research and writing on an aspect of the U.S. political process during the latter part of the 20th century. The research should make some use of Robert Teeter’s 1972-2004 papers. More information on the Teeter Award

How shall I cite material found at the library?

Citations should identify items with enough specificity that they can be retrieved easily. Most citations will be for manuscripts and contain these elements:
Type of document; names of sender and recipient, or title of document; date; folder title or Central File code; box number; collection title; Gerald R. Ford Library.
For example:
Memo, Marsh to Cannon, 14 July 1975, folder: Drug Task Force, box 10, James Cannon Papers, Gerald R. Ford Library.
Briefing paper, President's meeting with Ambassador Smith, 22 March 1976, folder: FO 3-1 Executive, White House Central Files, Gerald R. Ford Library.