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U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office

   A photo of Atkins Hall, circa 1896.

Atkins Hall, on the campus of St. Elizabeth's Hospital, circa 1896.
The Coast Guard Historian's Office is located here.
National Archives photo (RG 418-G-25).

The Coast Guard Historian's Office is charged with preserving, promoting and commemorating the Coast Guard's history and heritage in all forms, including documentation, official publications and manuals, photographs, oral histories, memoirs, and artifacts, among others.  The Historian's Office mandate also includes preserving the history and heritage of each of its five predecessor agencies as well: the Revenue Cutter Service, the Life-Saving Service, the Lighthouse Service, the Bureau of Navigation and the Steamboat Inspection Service.

The collection housed in the Historian's Office is made up of material that complements, and to some degree duplicates, the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration.  The Coast Guard's collection consists of hundreds of thousands of unique and accessible images, publications, manuals, directives, personal papers, diaries, and documents.  The office also manages the Coast Guard's Curatorial Services Program and the Coast Guard Museum.

PLEASE NOTE: The collection is open to researchers by appointment only.  The Historian's Office is on a secure campus and therefore prospective researchers will need to contact us at least five business days prior to the date they wish to visit so that we can submit the required forms to secure a pass.  Otherwise you will not be permitted to enter St. Elizabeth's.  See below for more information.

Letter, email and telephone inquiries are answered to the most complete degree possible given the limited number of staff on duty.

Resources of the Historian's Office & Historical Archive

  1. Cutter Files: these files consist of all or part of the following: photography, "Welcome Aboard" pamphlets, official histories, news clips, decommissioning documents, scrapbooks, and operational highlights.  Please note that the Historian's Office does not have cutter logbooks.  Those will be found in the collections of the National Archives.
  2. Lightship Files: these files cover each distinct lightship that served with the Lighthouse Service or Coast Guard as well as the various stations these vessels were moored on. The files consist primarily of photography along with limited documentation dating from the World War II-era to the mid-1980s.
  3. Disaster Files: these files cover significant maritime disasters, including merchant vessel incidents, floods, hurricanes, oil spills and major search-and-rescue incidents.  The files consist of photography, some official documentation and newsprint.  Please note that this collection consists primarily of incidents since 1950 up to the advent of the electronic age of the late-1990s.
  4. Personnel Files: these files consist of official biographies of senior officers and famous Coast Guard personnel.  Please note that official personnel jackets of retired and/or deceased personnel are held by the National Archives.
  5. Aviation & Aircraft Files: these files consist of photography of the various types of aircraft that Coast Guard has flown along with subject files for most Coast Guard-related aviation subjects.
  6. Lighthouse Files: these files consist of photography of most of the lighthouses and lighthouse stations in the United States.  Many date from the later-19th Century through the 1970s and include official photos of the light towers with many having images of the keepers' quarters and other buildings on the light station's grounds.
  7. District & Station Files: these files consist of photography of Coast Guard, Life-Saving Service and Lighthouse Service depots, offices and shore stations.
  8. Subject Files: these files consist of a wide-range of materials regarding a number of diverse subjects including the history of the Service's various missions, roles during the nation's wars, minorities, uniforms, and women, among others.  The files are arranged alphabetically.
  9. Manuscript Collections: this collection consists primarily of personal record collections, scrap books, photographs, official and personal correspondence, and order books, etc., that were put together and kept by various Coast Guardsmen.

Atkins Hall

Atkins Hall, on the campus of St. Elizabeth's Hospital, circa 2014.
The Coast Guard Historian's Office is located here.

Other Materials & Further Information on the Historian's Office

Reference Collection & Library

This collection consists of several thousand books, pamphlets, manuals, directives, instructions and newsletters that deal specifically with the Coast Guard or are Coast Guard publications.  Most significant are the old manuals, service publications and back issues of most of the periodicals published by the service.

Photography Archive

The Coast Guard Historian's Office photography collection is one of the largest collections of Coast Guard-related photography in the world.  It consists of hundreds of thousands of distinct photographs, negatives and slides dating from the post-Civil War-era to the early 1990s.  Images include lighthouses, cutters, lighthouse tenders, light vessels, combat images (especially from World War II and Vietnam), personnel, life-boat and air stations.

Collections Management & Donations

The Historian's Office maintains an active collections management program, including artifacts, manuscripts, and personal collections. Contact the Coast Guard Archivist, Ms. Nora Chidlow, for further information, including on how to donate personal collections to the Special Collections archive.

U. S. Coast Guard Curatorial Services Program

The Historian's Office manages the Coast Guard's Curatorial Services Program, which collects, stores, preserves, restores and loans heritage artifacts.  These include historic art, lighthouse lens, ships bells and binnacles, aircraft and their assorted parts and equipment, small boats, uniforms, weapons, among many others.

Museums wishing to locate items to borrow for display should contact the Coast Guard Curator or the Collections Manager for further information.

U. S. Coast Guard Museum

The Coast Guard Historian's Office is responsible for the U.S. Coast Guard Museum, which is located on the grounds of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.  The Museum Curator is in charge of the Museum and also curates a significant portion of the Coast Guard's historic artifacts.


The Historian's Office no longer has the resources available to print brochures, art and line-drawing sets but has posted all of them on-line throughout our website.  We will continue to publish new material to our website as it becomes available.

Access & Visitation Instructions

U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters and the Historian's Office are now on the campus of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C.  This is a highly secure campus and all visitors will need to contact us at least one week prior to their proposed visit in order to secure a pass; please see the contact information below.

You will need to provide us with your full name, citizenship, birthdate and area(s) of research interest.  We will then secure a pass for you.  Please note that you will need to receive official confirmation from the Historian's Office that your entry has been approved for the date and time requested before you will be allowed on campus.  Entry will be through St. Elizabeth's Campus Gate 1 at 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE.  Headquarters is serviced by the Anacostia Metro Station and a number of Metro Bus lines, including buses A2, A4, A6, A8, A42, A46, and A48.  There is a bus stop directly outside of Gate 1.  Please visit the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's Metro Trip Planner for more details.

If you have a Common Access Card (CAC) and are currently at Coast Guard Headquarters please call or email us prior to your visit as the Historian's Office building is itself a secure building.  One of the staff will have to let you in.

Office hours are from 0700 to 1530 daily, Monday through Friday.  The office is closed on weekends and all Federal holidays.  Earlier or later hours are available by appointment only.

  • Map of St. Elizabeth's Campus.

How To Contact Us

By Mail:

WASHINGTON DC 20593-7031

Telephone: (202) 372-4651
                 (202) 372-4653

FAX:         (202) 372-4984


Other Points of Contact for the Historian's Office Staff

Chief Historian, Historian's Office, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters

Dr. Robert M. Browning, Jr.
Chief Historian, Historian's Office
2703 Martin Luther King, Jr., Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20593-7031

U.S. Coast Guard Archivist

Ms. Nora L. Chidlow, Coast Guard Archivist
U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office
2703 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., SE
Washington, DC  20593-7031
Telephone: (202) 559-5142
FAX: (202) 372-4984

U. S. Coast Guard Museum

Ms. Jennifer Gaudio, Curator
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
15 Mohegan Avenue
New London, CT  06320
Telephone: (301) 444-8511

U. S. Coast Guard Curatorial & Artifact Program

Ms. Arlyn Danielson, Coast Guard Curator
Curatorial Service Office
U. S. Coast Guard Exhibit Center
7945 Fernham Lane
Forestville, MD  20747
Telephone: (301) 763-4008
Fax: (301) 763-4009

Ms. Heather Farley, Coast Guard Collections Manager
Curatorial Service Office
U.S. Coast Guard Exhibit Center
7945 Fernham Lane
Forestville, MD  20747
Telephone: (301) 763-4007
Fax: (301) 763-4009

U.S. Coast Guard Area Historians

U. S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Historian
William H. Thiesen, Ph.D.
Commander (LANT-092)
U. S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
431 Crawford Street
Portsmouth, VA 23704
Telephone: (757) 398-6643
Fax: (757) 398-6263

U. S. Coast Guard Pacific Area Historian
Dave Rosen, Ph.D.
U. S. Coast Guard Pacific Area, Public Affairs Office
U.S. Coast Guard Island, Building 42
Alameda, CA  94501
Telephone: (510) 437-5888

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Last Modified 4/15/2015