The National Park Service (NPS) is more than the sum of its parks. It's an idea and an ideal. The NPS History Collection encompass the breadth and depth of the agency's history as it preserves and shares the stories of the history, culture, management, resources, challenges, and successes of the NPS.
NPS Director George B. Hartzog, Jr. formally established the NPS History Collection at Harpers Ferry Center on November 6, 1972. Today the collection comprises over 3.5 million objects and documents. Use our online resources to explore the many aspects of the NPS, get to know the men and women who manage and protect the National Park System, and celebrate more than 100 years of NPS history.
New! Shared History
Not all NPS history is in NPS museum collections. Shared History features some of the objects and documents in family or personnel collections that help tell NPS stories.
New! Virtual 1923 Road Trip
New! 50 Nifty Finds
Explore the collection in more depth through our weekly 50 Nifty Finds features which focus on the stories behind specific objects.
Go behind-the-scenes on a virtual tour of the collection! Discover objects, art, photographs, and uniforms that span more than 100 years of NPS history.
Archives & Manuscript Collections
Documentary materials detailing the ongoing challenges of the NPS mission to preserve park resources unimpaired for future generations while making them accessible for today's visitors. Start by searching our finding aids to learn more about the cataloged collection. Please contact the archivist to discuss your research topic further or for help locating what you need.
NPS Historic Photograph Collection
Images of America’s special places, the people that care for them, and the visitors that love them. Search our online selection from the 400,000 images in the collection to see if there is anyone you know or anywhere you have been. Find out who the NPS Eminent Photographers were, and how their work contributes our understanding and enjoyment of national parks.
The NPS uniform is an iconic symbol of our staff and mission recognized around the world and one we wear with pride. Click the title above to learn how the uniform has changed over time.
Frequently Asked Questions
The National Park Service (NPS) History Collection acquires and preserves a wide variety of objects and documents that reflect the history of the bureau, its mission, and its employees. As American society has changed, so too has the NPS. Practices, attitudes, and language that were once common in some segments of our society are no longer considered acceptable.
The NPS History Collection, like other museums and archives, contains documents, images, and objects that reflect those earlier attitudes and events. Some content may be harmful or difficult to view as it may:
reflect racist, sexist, ableist, misogynistic, and xenophobic opinions and attitudes;
be discriminatory towards or exclude diverse views on sexuality, gender, and more; or
include graphic descriptions or images of historical events such as assaults, accidents, violent death, terrorist acts, natural disasters, hunting or trapping, and more.
Although NPS History Collection staff cannot change the historic documents or images, they can work to assess and update descriptions that are harmful and to establish standards to prevent future harmful language in staff-generated descriptions. NPS History Collection staff will also:
identify potentially harmful content as collections are processed;
inform users about the presence and origin of harmful content, when known;
revise descriptions and standardized sets of descriptive terms, as needed;
prevent bias and exclusion in our acquisition and digitization policies; and
continue the NPS institutional commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
If you have questions or concerns about potentially harmful content in the NPS History Collection or as found on our websites, digital asset management systems, or in our finding aids, please contact the archivist.
Last updated: December 8, 2023